Bell Atlantic sole bidder wins state school telecommunications contract

September 23, 1994|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Sun Staff Writer

The nominees for best company to build an advanced telecommunications network for Maryland schools are . . . Bell Atlantic.

And the winner is . . . Bell Atlantic.

In a move that comes as a surprise to virtually nobody, the Schaefer administration is recommending that the Board of Public Works award a controversial "distance learning" contract to the company Gov. William Donald Schaefer wanted all along.

The item is on the Budget and Fiscal Planning department's agenda for the board's meeting next Wednesday.

Bell Atlantic-Maryland scored first in both the technical and financial phases of the bidding process for the contract to extend a fiber-optic network to some 300 colleges, high schools and other schools in the state.

The subsidiary of Philadelphia-based Bell Atlantic Corp. racked up 952 out of a possible 1,000 points in the state's scoring system.

Nobody came in second. Bell Atlantic was the only bidder.

The state's cable television industry, whose protests last summer led to a ruling by Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. that the state budget department had to put out the contract for competitive bidding, sat out the process.

Charging that the deck was stacked in favor of Bell Atlantic, the Cable Television Association of Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia entered a protest instead.

Scott A. Livingston, a lawyer for the association, said yesterday that he had just received word that the appeal had been denied.

Wayne O'Dell, president of the cable association, said he will meet with the group's lawyers today to consider an appeal to the State Board of Contract Appeals.

"It was basically a bid written to Bell Atlantic's specifications. Only a telephone company could meet the requirements," he said.

Dave Pacholczyk, a spokesman for Bell Atlantic, said it would be premature to comment before the Board of Public Works acts.

The initiative called "Advantage: Maryland" was unveiled amid hoopla in June 1993, at a press conference attended by Governor Schaefer and Frederick D'Alessio, president of what was then the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. of Maryland.

Under the program, Bell Atlantic promised to extend to each of the state's colleges and high schools a network that could carry high-speed voice, data and video communications that would let a teacher in one part of the state teach classes to students in other locations.

Bell Atlantic said it would provide the connection and video-conferencing equipment to the schools for free. After that, the schools would pay a regulated monthly tariff for the service.

The contract was valued at $28 million over five years, with 5 percent paid by the state and 95 percent by local school boards, local governments and other educational institutions.

That estimate was based on a monthly tariff of $1,365 per site each month for the first three years and $2,730 thereafter.

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