Comm change near finish line

Comm change near finish line

GSA contractors are almost ready to make FTS 2001, MAAs end-to-end

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

The General Services Administration last month announced that 89 agencies have finished the changeover to the FTS 2001 long-haul communications contracts.

Most of the remaining 76 of GSA's 165 customer agencies are more than 50 percent done. About 40,000 of 51,000 sites governmentwide have moved to the new contracts, said Frank E. Lalley, assistant commissioner for service delivery at GSA's Federal Technology Service.

FTS' Sandra Bates is glad of the efforts to raise salaries, but there just aren't enough federal IT workers, she says.

FTS commissioner Sandra Bates had set an Oct. 1 goal for moving voice and data networks to the FTS 2001 contracts held by Sprint Corp. and WorldCom Inc.

Eight-year deal

The contracts, which guarantee at least $1.5 billion to the companies over eight years, replace now-expired FTS 2000 contracts with Sprint and AT&T Corp.

Meanwhile, FTS has awarded competitive local telephone service contracts in 19 cities under its Metropolitan Area Acquisition program. The agency intends to open the FTS 2001 and MAA programs to let the contractors give end-to-end service.

'We hope to announce the next stage of implementation of that strategy within the next few weeks,' Bates said last month.

Moving to the new contracts was a massive undertaking because it did not involve like-for-like service, Lalley said.

Agencies had to assess their current services, future needs and available options, and then schedule everything.

Changing a frame-relay data network to a new provider takes about 100 days, Lalley said. A voice network, which involves less hardware, averages about 30 days.

In most cases, local exchange carriers rather than the FTS 2001 contractors have done much of the provisioning, Lalley said.

The remaining work is at small, remote sites and on a few large data networks.

'Hub sites are expensive and in very high demand,' which complicates transition schedules, Lalley said.

Robert Bubniak, chairman of the Interagency Management Council and acting chief information officer at the Veterans Affairs Department, said the biggest lesson of the transition was to cooperate closely with contractors.

'You have to start dealing with the winning vendors very early in the day' to make sure they commit the necessary resources to the task, he said.

Agencies as well as vendors have had trouble finding enough skilled personnel for the transition.

'There is a shortage of people,' Bates said. She said she is encouraged by efforts to raise pay scales for federal information technology workers, but 'it is going to be an uphill battle because there just aren't enough of them.'

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