GSA dials for more dollars







The Federal Technology Service’s next round of Metropolitan Area
Acquisitions for local telephone service will not necessarily go to cities with large
numbers of General Services Administration customers.


The word came from Margaret C. Binns, an FTS assistant commissioner, speaking at last
month’s Federal Telecommunications Conference sponsored by Telestrategies Inc. of
McLean, Va.


Instead, Binns said, the MAAs might cover cities where price competition can be
leveraged to raise GSA’s share of federal traffic. The next round likely will include
at least one city on the turf of a Bell operating company that was not part of the first
round.


The first-round MAAs are soliciting competitive local telecommunications service in New
York, Chicago and San Francisco, and contracts are expected to be awarded next month. The
timetable slipped from December after a challenge resulted in a decision to award multiple
contracts in each area.


Binns, who heads the Office of Regional Services, said FTS is happy with the decision
to award multiple contracts. She said they could push prices down and help speed the entry
of regional Bell companies into the long-distance market.


FTS eventually wants to merge its MAA local service with FTS 2001 long-distance
contracts in a single set of competitive, end-to-end network offerings. The crossover can
begin a year after each contract is awarded. But to enter the long-distance market,
regional Bells must convince the Federal Communications Commission that they have opened
their local markets to competition. Multiple MAA contracts could help achieve this, Binns
said.


The first-round cities have high concentrations of federal customers as well as
competitive local exchange carriers. FTS will not decide on the second-round cities until
after the first-round contracts are awarded, Binns said. The list probably will include
two to four cities, which she predicted will be chosen for the opportunities they offer to
expand GSA business.


FTS commissioner Dennis J. Fischer said the agency’s market share in the
local-service area is too small. FTS lives or dies by reselling services to other
agencies, and Fischer said the top priority is to boost business.


Philadelphia or Pittsburgh would be likely candidates for the next round, but not both
of them, Binns said. In the southeastern United States, Atlanta, Miami and Tampa, Fla.,
are high on the list. In the Midwest, Cincinnati and Cleveland are candidates. The Twin
Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., likely will move up if Denver is not chosen in
the market area of U.S. West Inc. of Englewood, Colo. Los Angeles also stands a good
chance of selection, she said.


Communications companies must prequalify to bid for MAA contracts by showing an ability
to supply services. So far, six companies have prequalified: Ameritech Corp. of Chicago,
AT&T Corp., Bell Atlantic Corp., Pacific Bell Telephone of San Francisco, Southwestern
Bell Corp. of St. Louis and WinStar Communications Inc. of New York.


Binns said the pace of MAA awards will speed up after the first round. She advised
interested companies to prequalify themselves now.


The MAA program is one of several local-service initiatives FTS is pursuing. Proposals
for the Washington Interagency Telecommunications System 2001 contract came in last month.


FTS also may pursue separate competitive contracts for local voice service in as many
as 15 cities, Binns said. Such a contract for federal customers in Oklahoma City has cut
phone rates sharply, she said. 


About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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