State officials and officers of Alaska Communications Systems are hailing a contract that makes Alaska the first state to turn over all of its telecommunications operations to the private sector.
Under terms of the five-year, $92 million contract signed in Juneau on Monday, ACS is responsible for telephone, videoconference, data, paging, mobile radio and Internet services for all of state government - not just the executive branch but also the courts, Legislature and University of Alaska.
Administration Commissioner Jim Duncan said the state will save $12.9 million in operational costs over the life of the contract. ACS also will make a $29 million investment in technology upgrades that otherwise would have been an additional expense for the state, he said.
"I think this is a monumental contract," he said. "It was not easily done; it took some tough negotiations."
"This has been a long and rigorous process," agreed ACS President Wes Carson.
The state issued its request for proposals about 15 months ago. On Friday, the deadline passed for losing bidders GCI and AT&T Alascom to protest the state's notice of intent to award the contract to ACS, which was announced Nov. 15.
The transition to a single provider will take a year, but improvements will be noticeable by mid-March, Duncan said. Videoconferencing will be upgraded at sites in Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks by then, he said.
"The new technology will combine voice, data and video through a single network that gives the state more bang for the buck," Duncan said.
Also cutting-edge is the labor-management agreement protecting jobs for 26 state employees, he said. The employees can decide whether they want to stay with the state or go to work for ACS.
Meanwhile, the private sector will enjoy benefits of the partnership, Carson said. "Early in 2002, ACS will extend these advanced network services to businesses and institutions throughout the state."
Bill McAllister can be reached at email@example.com.