Uh-oh! The White House wants you to have an old phone

Using a particular BPA might help the governmentwide picture, but it won't necessarily help individual agencies manage their own expenses.

Although I was mildly irritated when Tom Brady was sacked for the umpteenth time during the AFL championship game last weekend, I was ready to throw my Bud Lite through the TV set if another wireless carrier ad came on during the commercial breaks. You have to possess a coupon clipper mentality to sit there and sort through all the offers. And the brain of a sloth to not hit the mute button.

Cheapskate that I am, I treat data the way I treat an $85 bottle of rye I received last birthday. For one thing, it goes fast — and it’s expensive to buy more on the spot market. For another, I find LTE foot-tappingly slow to download just about anything. Now that carriers have separated phones and voice/data plans, things have really gotten complicated.

And not just for individual consumers. The federal government has often found itself a step behind in acquiring and using telephonic services. Now the Office of Management and Budget is about to squash new acquisitions of mobile devices and wireless plans, instead making mandatory a General Services Administration blanket purchase agreement for them. Judging from the Web traffic for Jason Miller’s story, the White House has everyone’s attention.

OMB wants to get a picture of governmentwide spending on wireless. That supports the larger category management objectives the GSA is managing. In this case, via the Wireless program under its Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative. It wants to try and reduce the overall spend, estimated to be $1 billion. And it wants to end some of the absurdities, such as hundreds of phones bought, paid for, equipped with minutes — and never taken out of the box and used.

I thought mobile device management software was catching on big in the federal government. That’s how corporations manage what can become a runaway expense, with everyone buying their own devices and plans. MDM software is highly competitive, with several big vendors able to handle the chore of tracking devices, usage and security. GSA’s wireless program in fact includes MDM products, such as Citrix and AirWatch. Using a particular BPA might help the governmentwide picture, but it won’t necessarily help individual agencies manage their own expenses unless they install MDM.

Judging from the football TV ads, wireless is a moving target. Telephony in general has been that way since about 1982, the year of the Bell System breakup.

Expect howls. This isn’t the first mandatory telecom contract the government has ever tried to enforce. But give GSA a chance. BPAs tend to have a lot of choice built in, in the first place. This is hardly an AT&T-or-MCI situation.

For individual users, OMB has put in a sharp barb. Namely, the provision that to save money, agencies buy the last generation device.

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