Agencies need telecom savvy

HERSHEY, Pa.--Regardless of new laws and industry price wars, consumer
savvy will be the key to agencies cashing in on telecommunications reform, one of the
government's top telecommunications chiefs has predicted.


"There's a $43 billion local telecommunications market that will lead to chaos or
at least significant changes in competition and more complexity," said Margaret
Binns, assistant commissioner of the General Services Administration's Federal
Telecommunications Service for regional services.


"The bottom line is saving money in the local market and how to aggregate long
distance, access to the Internet and electronic commerce," she said.


Speaking at GSA's annual IRM Conference, Binns outlined the new industry marketing
ploys and government buying options that agencies must learn how to exploit.


Binns said last year's telecommunications reform legislation ignited a series of
commercial marketing strategies designed to divide and conquer the government's user base.


But agencies must be wary of service plans that minimize federal volume discounts and
cumulative buying clout, she warned.


"Agencies have to have knowledge on the price side and realize that marketing
strategies are changing. Competition matters, and volume counts," Binns said.


"What's happening is that the choices are becoming apples and oranges comparisons.
It's not easy to compare prices from one model to another."


Binns urged agencies to work closely with the Interagency Management Council to keep
pace with regulatory changes. The council is developing a database on federal user trends,
she said.


Agencies need to understand their options for buying videoconferencing services,
conducing distance learning and creating teaming arrangements with state and local
agencies, she said.


For its own local services contracting strategy, Binns said, GSA is using its own
Metropolitan Area Acquisition Program to partner with other federal agencies.


For example, GSA will follow the Navy's lead in setting up MAA contracts for the San
Diego and Portland regions while seeking additional teaming opportunities in other major
cities.


Binns said GSA will award the first MAA contracts next spring for New York, Chicago and
San Francisco. Contracts for another 10 to 15 cities are slated for award by fiscal 1999.


More information about the MAA program is on FTS' World Wide Web site at http://www.gsa.gov/maa.


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