Wheaton company to supply gear for C&P's classroom links

August 27, 1993|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Staff Writer

2/3 TC A fast-growing Wheaton company is the apparent winner in the bidding to provide the classroom electronics systems needed for the statewide fiber-optic network Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. of Maryland plans to build to link some 270 schools across the state.

Washington Professional Systems and C&P have signed a letter of intent designating the 6-year-old firm as the phone company's choice for the lucrative contract, a C&P spokesman said yesterday.

Dave Pacholczyk, the C&P spokesman, said the value of the contract would depend on the number of schools that join the system. Robert Levin, president and chief executive of Washington Professional, estimated that if the response from the schools is strong, sales could exceed $8 million.

But the implications for Washington Professional could be far greater, Mr. Levin said. The Maryland contract, one of the most ambitious "distance learning" plans in the nation, could help make his company a major player in a national market that could generate $1 billion in sales, he said.

Washington Professional was chosen from a field of at least a half-dozen bidders, Mr. Pacholczyk said.

If the two companies agree to final terms, Washington Professional will provide the cameras, microphones, monitors and other video and audio equipment needed to link classrooms with the network, Mr. Levin said.

The Montgomery County company will not manufacture most of the equipment, but will integrate the components into a single system.

Mr. Levin said Washington Professional was founded in 1987 and has experienced 40 percent annual growth since then. He declined to provide revenue figures for the privately held company.

As part of an initiative that was strongly supported by Gov. William Donald Schaefer's administration, C&P announced in June that it would spend an estimated $30 million to lay the cable for the network.

The phone company also offered to donate more than $10 million to equip classrooms to hook into the interactive network, which will let students in one part of the state take part in a class taught many miles away. The schools would pay a monthly fee for the service.

No winner has been chosen yet for the biggest prize of all -- the contract or contracts to lay the miles of fiber-optic cable that will link the high schools and colleges in a single network, Mr. Pacholczyk said.

Mr. Levin said his company worked with C&P previously in

equipping classrooms at some of its test sites in Baltimore County and Baltimore City.

"We've taken it to a new level because we've learned things each time we do something," he said.

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