Ga. governor abandons telecom outsourcing plan

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue has canceled the state's groundbreaking 10-year, $1.8 billion telecommunications outsourcing project, the Georgia Technology Authority announced Wednesday.

The announcement follows the formation of a task force by the governor Jan. 30 to review the project.

Perdue told GTA to cancel the contract so the task force could review the state's telecommunications needs without being encumbered by the award process.

The 15-member task force holds its first meetings Feb. 12 and will meet four times before delivering its report to the government in 60 days.

"The task force will review all components of this project and they would not be able to do so if the bid were to continue as planned," Perdue's office said.

The task force will study alternatives for the state to achieve some of the objectives of the project, including affordability, high-speed access and better reliability. It also will explore whether the state might still outsource some pieces of the original telecommunications project, said Joyce Goldberg, a GTA spokeswoman.

Outsourcing is one of the "improvement remedies" that the task force will analyze, she said.

However, the task force is unlikely to recommend outsourcing "huge chunks" of telecom or computing services as set forth in CCOP, she said.

Dividing CCOP into several smaller outsourcing projects would not be cost effective for the state, "given Georgia's current budget crisis and the industry information on greater savings with an enterprise solution versus a group of point solutions," said Dana Bolden, an Electronic Data Systems Corp. spokesman.

EDS of Plano, Texas, led the ConnectGeorgia team, which was the only bidder on the CCOP contract at the time it was canceled. IBM Corp. of Armonk, N.Y., the leader of the EnvisionGeorgia team, withdrew its bid Jan. 3, citing changing external factors related to the state's political landscape, the economy and the telecom industry.

The ConnectGeorgia team included AT&T Corp., Bell South Telecommunications Inc., Cingular Wireless, Information Systems Management Inc. and Science Applications International Corp.

"Given the political landscape and the tough budget climate, this decision does not come as a surprise, but we hope the governor will continue to look for ways to improve the state's telecommunications and technology infrastructure," EDS' Bolden said.

EDS will review any future outsourcing requests for proposal that the state might issue, he said.

The CCOP project was designed to provide long-distance and wireless phone services, high-speed online access, local area networks and personal computing equipment to support state and local government agencies, including schools, libraries and city and county offices. It was crafted by the previous administration under Gov. Roy Barnes.

The state spent about $4.2 million developing the proposal, mostly to determine how much the state spends for telecom services and what requirements the various state agencies had, Goldberg said.

The companies declined to state how much they invested developing their bids, but companies typically spend millions of dollars developing proposals for projects of this magnitude, according to industry experts.

Goldberg said that state officials are aware that contractors invested heavily in their proposals of both time and money.

"We know they put a lot of work into it, and I think that will carry over," Goldberg said. "There will still be opportunities out there, and I think the vendors are looking at those opportunities, especially with the uncertainties in telecom."

She said the state's strong working relationship with the private sector for IT and telecom services should continue.

"As you close one door you open other doors," Goldberg said. "That's always the way it is with these kinds of things."

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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