GSA Rejects Qwest's Protest of Competitors' Contract Extensions

Qwest Communications International Inc. lost its protest of a General Services Administration decision to give AT&T Corp. and Sprint Corp. extensions on their FTS2000 contracts to provide long-distance telecommunications services to federal agencies.

GSA extended the contracts so agencies could complete their transition to the successor FTS2001 telecommunications contract.

The dispute between Denver-based Qwest and GSA arose from failure of federal government agencies to move from FTS2000 telecom providers AT&T of Basking Ridge, N.J., and Sprint of Westwood, Kan., to the holders of the FTS2001 contract, WorldCom Inc. of Clinton, Miss., and Sprint.

Because the transition work was not completed by December 2000, the GSA awarded a bridge contract with Sprint for six months and with AT&T for 12 months to continue providing telecom services to agencies until they could shift to the FTS2001 service providers.

Qwest protested the extensions, arguing it could have met the government's needs and that the bridge contracts should have been put out for competition.

Donald Suda, the agency protest official with GSA, ruled March 12 that Qwest's argument that GSA violated the Competition in Contracting Act and the Federal Acquisition Regulations did not have merit.

"The record indicates that the agency's action had a rational basis and complied with" the law, Suda wrote. He said that Qwest's argument "is really a difference [of opinion] with the agency's judgment of what is 'practicable.' "

GSA's decision was a "business judgment and ... the record does not support the conclusion that the Agency violated law or regulation," Suda said.

"Competition lost today," said James Payne, senior vice president of Qwest's Government Systems Division. "Customers lost today. Obviously we don't agree with the decision announced today in our protest filing. This decision casts a long shadow over the drive for competition in the FTS contract arena, which was our principal objective in filing this protest."

Payne said the company is considering challenging the decision.

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