GSA: Buying woes will not delay FTS 2001

An Oct. 31 amendment to the FTS 2001 request for proposals for long-distance services
drew more than 400 clarification requests. The service drafted another amendment for
release this month, incorporating minor changes.

"We don't anticipate any major revisions," FTS deputy commissioner Sandra
Bates said. "We need to get on with it. The industry has their top teams working on

The General Services Administration agency extended the closing date for technical,
management and business proposals from Feb. 13 to March 2. It moved the deadline for cost
and price proposals and for newly optional services proposals from March 17 to April 2.
GSA plans to award FTS 2001 contracts this summer or fall.

Last November, the Federal Technology Service asked would-be vendors for MAA
competitive local phone services in selected markets to submit qualification statements.
The service plans to award the first MAAs for New York, followed quickly by contract
awards for services in Chicago and San Francisco.

Within three weeks of the qualification request, the service received nearly 300
questions. The volume of responses led the agency to extend the deadline for submitting
prequalification proposals from Jan. 15 to Feb. 26. Companies do not have to prequalify
for subsequent contracts, but the service has encouraged prospective bidders to do so if
they are interested in any of the first-round MAAs.

An RFP for the New York MAA is set for release Feb. 26, followed by an award in the

Timing is crucial for the FTS 2001 awards--current FTS 2000 mandatory contracts will
expire in December. The 2001 contracts will be nonmandatory, however, so many federal
users will make arrangements outside the 2001 program.

Even under the best circumstances, switching from one contract to another is "not
for the fainthearted," Bates said.

One wild card is a recent federal court decision giving regional Bell operating
companies immediate entry to long-distance markets. The decision struck down parts of the
Telecommunications Act of 1996 that required RBOCs to open their local markets to
competition before they could enter long-distance markets.

The ruling, though subject to appeal, could change the playing field for bidders on FTS
2001 and the MAAs. But RBOCs lack a track record for long-distance service and probably
would find it difficult to compete for FTS 2001 contracts, Bates said.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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