GSA stays mum on Networx, promises more details to come

The General Services Administration so far is revealing few details about strategic changes it may or may not make to a $10 billion governmentwide telecommunications and network services buy.

GSA will complete a revised strategy for Networx, the successor to FTS 2001, within a month or two and issue a draft request for proposals this summer, said John Johnson, assistant commissioner for service delivery in GSA's Federal Technology Service.

Speaking last week at an industry day Networx conference in Washington, Johnson said GSA must address complex challenges in creating such a sweeping procurement.
As it did with FTS 2001, GSA plans to award multiple 10-year contracts for Networx. The FTS 2001 contracts, held by MCI Inc. and Sprint Corp., expire in 2006.

The services that Networx is expected to offer run the gamut from circuit-switched networks and Internet service to remote access and satellite services.

Many would-be Networx vendors have asked GSA to change some of the provisions of the buy. Most notably, vendors want GSA to revisit a two-prong acquisition approach: one for large telecommunications companies with national infrastructures and one for small comm companies and systems integrators that might be unable to provide all Networx services to users nationwide.

Based on vendor comments, GSA is also reconsidering specifications for ubiquitous service, minimum revenue guarantees and billing requirements.
Industry representatives at the conference voiced concern about prospective changes and the changeover from FTS 2001 to Networx.

When asked if GSA would include a broader number of services in its draft RFP, Johnson said FTS was examining services across the board. At minimum, Networx will offer 56 core services, he said.

A chief goal is to provide services that assure "there's not that huge gap between where our customers are and where they want to be," Johnson said. He also said GSA wants to make sure there is a smooth transition from FTS 2001 to Networx.

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