Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Look to the IT Schedule

The news that MCI WorldCom Inc. will merge with Sprint Corp. [GCN, Oct. 4, Page 1] could well be subtitled, 'Chickens come home to roost at GSA,'' where a long-standing policy of limiting competition for telecommunications services among oligopolists has left the General Services Administration's Dennis Fischer sputtering, 'Two is different than one.''

It's a shame that this epiphany escaped GSA when it locked the government into the eight-year, $1.5 billion minimum-revenue-guaranteed FTS 2001 contracts.

It is keenly ironic that former Federal Technology Service commissioner Robert Woods, who is as much responsible for this debacle as anyone currently ensconced at GSA, would make the equally revelatory observation that 'these two merging could create a competitive problem.''

But such understatement is not surprising considering that GSA has never understood that multibillion-dollar omnibus contracts for commodity telecommunications services created significant competitive problems even before the FTS 2001 contractors decided to merge. Now, Woods is left to wonder if 'the Justice Department will let them do that,'' and Fischer makes the wishful observation that these deals often do not go through.

Meanwhile, AT&T Corp., an FTS 2001 outcast, stands ready to rescue GSA by seeking permission to offer long-haul services through its Metropolitan Area Acquisition contracts.

It is time for a real solution: GSA's Information Technology Schedule contracts. The Federal Supply Service recently permitted limited paging and cellular services. However, in its request for proposals, FSS carried this warning: 'Telecommunication transmission services are not intended to supersede or be substituted for any FTS local and long-distance programs.''

Now is the time to break the stranglehold that the FTS bureaucracy has had over the procurement of federal telecommunications services.

'If this [merger] becomes a reality, it will affect our strategic thinking,'' Fischer said. It is hoped that the strategic thinking at GSA can finally align itself with the realities of a deregulated, dynamic telecommunications marketplace.

GSA should lift all the telecommunications services restrictions on the IT Schedule and permit full-and-open competition to flourish. Federal agencies and telecommunications providers should use this opportunity to demand nothing less from GSA.

Craig Brooks


Electra International Telecommunications

Bethesda, Md.

Navy users lose with Mac ban

The Naval Air Warfare Center's policy prohibiting the purchase of Apple Macintosh computers without a special waiver [GCN, Sept. 27, Page 46] is misguided for several reasons:

''It discriminates against Apple Computer Inc. by making it harder for it to compete with other computer companies such as Dell Computer Corp. and Compaq Computer Corp. simply because its product does not use an operating system made by Microsoft Corp. If Apple can meet the requirements of a contract, it should not be barred from selling computers to the Navy.

''It ignores the fact that, according to GartnerGroup Inc. of Stamford, Conn., support costs are not higher in a mixed Mac-PC environment than in an all-PC environment. In fact, interoperability between Macs and PCs has gotten much better thanks to the partnership between Microsoft and Apple.

''It forces users to retrain on an operating system they are not familiar with. Such training will increase the Navy's costs.

''It puts all the Navy's eggs in one basket, and gives Microsoft too much control over the future of information technology development.

NAVAIR should encourage a multiplatform environment to stimulate competition among vendors. Instead of banning Apple, it should work with its 1,000 dedicated Mac users to make their network standards-based rather than Microsoft-based.

Mike Basham

California, Md.

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