Qwest Protests FTS2000 Extensions with GAO

Qwest Communications International Inc. filed a protest March 22 with the General Accounting Office over contract extensions that the General Services Administration awarded to Sprint Communications Co. and AT&T Corp. on their FTS2000 telecommunications contracts.

GSA extended the contracts in December 2000 so federal agencies can complete their transition to the successor FTS2001 telecommunications contract.

Denver-based Qwest earlier this month lost a protest on the same issue filed directly with the GSA. The dispute between Qwest and GSA arose from the 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. GSA also agreed to pay AT&T a one-time fee of $8 million to continue its services.

James Payne, senior vice president of Qwest's government systems division, said the company had not planned on carrying the protest to the GAO, but the recent leak of a draft GAO report criticizing GSA's handling of the transition to FTS2001 led him to reconsider.

Qwest contends that GSA, rather than granting extensions to AT&T and Sprint, should have allowed Qwest and other carriers to compete for that work.

"I'm fully aware that the clock is running out [and] the transition is moving forward," Payne said, "but there's no opportunity for competition until GSA opens the door."

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