JUNEAU (AP) -- Alaska Communications Systems Group is the apparent winner of a nearly $100 million contract to take over telecommunications services for state government.
The state issued a notice of intent Thursday to award ACS the five-year contract valued at about $18.5 million annually, said Jim Duncan, commissioner of the Department of Administration.
Under the new contract, the state expects to save $12.9 million in operating costs over the next five years.
The contract was the result of 15 months of review and negotiation. The state plans to sign the contract with ACS in 10 days, but the signing could be delayed if other vendors protest the award during that time, Duncan said.
GCI competed for the contract, but a spokesman said the company had not decided whether to file a protest.
''We will be reviewing the documents over the next 10 days to make sure we are comfortable with the award,'' said David Morris. The other bidder, AT&T Alascom, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The deal would make Alaska the first state to contract with the private sector for all of its telecommunications services. The change will affect 26 state employees, but the workers will not lose their jobs, Duncan said.
The state will keep the employees on the payroll, but they will report directly to ACS, not the state. The agency will find other state jobs for workers who do not like that arrangement, said Duncan, adding that some employees may opt to leave state government if ACS offers them jobs.
Chuck O'Connell, business manager for the Alaska State Employees Association, supported the change.
''It should result in better telecommunications and none of our members are going to be adversely impacted,'' O'Connell said. The union represents 12 of the affected state employees.
Under terms of the contract, ACS agreed to invest $29 million to install infrastructure, including new telephones and cable in state offices, said Duncan, noting that the new equipment will give workers access to state-of-the-art technology.
State employees will be able to dial state office anywhere in the state without racking-up long-distance charges, he said.
The new system also will improve video conferencing and mobile communications, including cell phone and satellite phone service.
State government currently spends about $26 million a year on telephone, videoconference, pager, mobile radio, Internet and other telecommunications services. More than $20 million of that is contracted to numerous providers in a piecemeal fashion.
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