Text-messaging campaign targets Cuba

A Maryland company has won a U.S. government contract to set up a system capable of sending tens of thousands of text messages every month to Cuban cell phone users who want to receive news and information from TV and Radio Martí.
Washington Software, Inc., will design a text messaging system aimed at countering Cuban government attempts to block politically sensitive messages, according to a Sept. 23 award notice.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors, or BBG, solicited bids for the text-messaging service on Aug. 17. The base contract is worth $84,000 during the first year. Four additional one-year options would boost the total value of the contract to $464,160.
One prospective contractor wondered if the text-messaging campaign was legal. He wrote:

We are concerned with the legality of sending these types of notifications to people in another country. Does the US government take all legal responsibility for these messages? Are there legal considerations a vendor would have to be aware of on these kinds of broadcasts?

The BBG replied:

The Agency assumes responsibility for the content of the messages. The Contractor assumes all responsibility under this requirement and should consider all aspects of this requirement before submitting an offer.

Translation: If you’re worried about legal trouble, don’t bother to apply.

The International Broadcasting Bureau, which oversees Miami-based Radio and TV Martí, explained the need to get around Cuban censors.

The IBB’s Internet anti-censorship program seeks to ensure Internet users in target countries are able to access USG broadcasters’ web sites to access their news and other programming, using a variety of tools to counter foreign government-sponsored Internet censorship controls.
These techniques must include the ability to add unique changes to each message instance sent to each individual subscriber to avoid detection of messages being sent in bulk to many subscribers. Additionally, these techniques may include keyword substitutions, where potentially provocative keywords which are likely to be censored are replaced with other words or characters which leave the meaning intact but foil automated keyword detection.

FedBizOpps.gov lists Washington Software as the winning contractor. The firm’s first-year contract runs from Sept. 15, 2011, through Sept. 14, 2012.
The government contract requires that the contractor be able to distribute up to 24,000 total messages per week – and that amount may rise, depending on events in Cuba.
Washington Software has been in business since 1998. Its address is 20410 Century Blvd, Ste 220, Germantown, Maryland. Its clients include the U.S. Department of Education, the Department of Health & Human Services and the Department of Labor and other government agencies.
Washington Software also serves such businesses as IBM and Lockheed Martin. The company website states:

We are an IT Solution Provider and we pride ourselves in our experience, knowledge, and skill set to provide our clients with positive results. We utilize a secure and agile methodology alongside proven technologies to maximize our efforts in our projects. Our main focus has been to satisfy our commercial and government organizations located in our region.


The full text of the bid is below:

Solicitation Number:
BBG50-R-11-0028
Notice Type:
Combined Synopsis/Solicitation
Synopsis:
Added: Aug 17, 2011 5:57 pm

(i)THIS IS A COMBINED SYNOPSIS/SOLICITATION FOR A COMMERCIAL ITEM PREPARED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE FORMAT IN SUBPART 12.6 AS SUPPLEMENTED WITH ADDITIONAL INFORMATION INCLUDED IN THIS NOTICE. THIS ANNOUNCEMENT CONSTITUTES THE ONLY SOLICITATION; PROPOSALS ARE BEING REQUESTED AND A WRITTEN SOLICITATION WILL NOT BE ISSUED.

(ii) Solicitation No. BBG50-R-11- 0028 is issued as a Request For Proposal (RFP) for a Firm-Fixed price contract that will be awarded using the contracting by negotiation procedures in FAR Part 15.

(iii) This solicitation document and incorporated provisions and clauses are those in effect from the Federal Acquisition Regulations 2005-53, dated August 4, 2011.

(iv) This is a full and open competition. The North American Industry Classification Systems (NAICS) code for this acquisition is 517210.

(iv) The Contractor shall provide the following Contract Line Item (CLIN) : 1 Design and operate a system to manage delivery of SMS messages from OCB broadcasters to mobile phone users in Cuba, including techniques for manipulation and keyword substitution on individual messages to circumvent censorship imposed by telephone carriers or the Cuban government. (v) The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) Governors requires a contractor to design and operate a system to manage delivery of SMS messages from OCB broadcasters to mobile phone users in Cuba, including techniques for manipulation and keyword substitution on individual messages to circumvent censorship imposed by telephone carriers or the Cuban government. TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS: The Contractor shall design and operate a system to manage delivery of SMS messages from OCB broadcasters to mobile phone users in Cuba, including techniques for manipulation and keyword substitution on individual messages to circumvent censorship imposed by telephone carriers or the Cuban government. The Contractor shall design and operate a web-based interface to their SMS delivery system, which must be secured using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), in addition to usernames and passwords assigned on a per-user basis. Username and password management may be controlled by the Contractor, or may be delegated to authorized administrative users via the web interface itself. The web interface as described above must allow authorized OCB users to manage the SMS distribution list, including addition and deletion of individual telephone numbers, bulk upload of additional telephone numbers from a text file, and sub-string searching of the telephone number list. The web interface as described above must allow authorized OCB users to enter text messages for immediate SMS distribution to the subscriber list, to schedule messages for future distribution, as well as view a history of messages previously sent. The Contractor shall provide real-time access to reporting and statistics via the web interface as above, including total number of telephone numbers in the subscriber list, number of telephone numbers added and deleted in the last 30 days, total number of SMS messages delivered in the last 30 days, and delivery success and failure rates on a per-message basis.The Contractor shall deliver messages via SMS to all subscribers immediately upon entry or at the scheduled time as selected when the message is entered. The Contractor must be able to distribute up to 24,000 total messages per week. The Contractor may delay or rate-limit sending to avoid any carrier-imposed rate-limiting or blocking of messages, but must notify the Authorized Representative of the Contracting Officer (AR/CO) of any Contractor-imposed delays or rate-limiting which lowers the sending rate to less than 3,600 messages per hour, and must never drop below 1,800 messages per hour without prior approval of the AR/CO.The Contractor shall develop and implement techniques for manipulation and keyword substitution of individual messages to circumvent censorship imposed by telephone carriers or the Cuban government. These techniques must include the ability to add unique changes to each message instance sent to each individual subscriber to avoid detection of messages being sent in bulk to many subscribers. Additionally, these techniques may include keyword substitutions, where potentially provocative keywords which are likely to be censored are replaced with other words or characters which leave the meaning intact but foil automated keyword detection (e.g. replacing ‘o’ with ‘0’, or ‘i’ with ‘1’). The Contractor shall provide the AR/CO with a written description of the current manipulation techniques being used upon request.The Contractor must correctly allow entry of SMS messages in both the Spanish and English languages via the web interface as well as correctly distribute SMS messages via the cellular networks such that all characters, especially those used only in Spanish, are not corrupted in the sending process. OPTION: If directed by the AR/CO and upon award of this option by the Contracting Officer, the Contractor shall increase by 10,000 the maximum monthly message total from the limit as described above. This option may be awarded multiple times, with each subsequent award further increasing the maximum monthly message total by 10,000. ADMINISTRATIVE REQUIREMENTS: The Contractor shall provide a written Monthly Status Report within ten (10) business days of the end of each month to the AR/CO detailing work performed during the previous month. This report shall describe the work performed for specific requirements of this contract as well as the statistics gathered in aggregate regarding the use and performance of the system, including total number of telephone numbers in the subscriber list, number of telephone numbers added and deleted during the month, total number of SMS messages delivered during the month, delivery success and failure rates, and overall system uptime and availability. The Contractor shall be available for a telephone conference call with the AR/CO, other IBB staff and OCB broadcaster representatives at a mutually agreeable time on a periodic basis averaging no more than 2 calls per month of one hour’s duration. This requirement is in addition to any other required communication by telephone or email with the AR/CO for execution of this contract. DELIVERABLES: The Contractor shall deliver a username and password for the AR/CO to access the completed web interface within 1 month after award for testing and inspection. Upon inspection and approval of the web interface, the AR/CO will then provide the Contractor with the names of authorized OCB users, and the Contractor shall provide usernames and passwords for these users within 1 week. At this time, the Contractor must be able to distribute SMS messages at the rates as described above. ADDITIONAL TERMS: All telephone numbers on the subscriber list are the strict property of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, International Broadcasting Bureau and may not be used by the Contractor for any purpose other than in the direct execution of duties as defined in this Statement of Work. Under no circumstances may the Contractor share, give, sell, deliver, or in any other fashion, distribute or use the telephone number lists provided by the IBB to any other business, organization, service, or any government, US or foreign. Any violation of this condition will result in termination of the contract for default with damages sought for actual prospective costs of recovery.

(vi) The Period of Performance is 30 days after award. The Base Period is for one year. The subsequent Four (4) One-Year (1) Option Period will follow sequentially for total contract duration not to exceed 5 years.

(vi) The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) provision FAR 52.212-1 Instruction to Offerors-Commercial Items, applies to this solicitation. Full text of all FAR clauses and provisions are available electronically at the following Internet address: (http://www.arnet.gov/far). Interested contractors who are capable of providing these services should submit a proposal demonstrating their ability and experience in providing the required services. CONTRACTOR QUALIFICATIONS SHALL INCLUDE BUT NOT BE LIMITED TO: a) Design and operate a system to manage delivery of SMS messages from OCB broadcasters to mobile phone users in Cuba, including techniques for manipulation and keyword substitution on individual messages to circumvent censorship imposed by telephone carriers or the Cuban government having the technical characteristics described herein, and b) ability to meet the period of performance as described herein. OFFERORS RESPONDING TO THIS SOLICITATION SHALL SUBMIT AT MINIMUM, THE FOLLOWING ITEMS TO THE CONTRACTING OFFICER: (1) a technical proposal which addresses the factors described below in Section (v) and (2) and a price proposal in accordance with Section (v). The Price Proposal must contain a copy of the SF 1449 which is attached to this notice and Attachment A entitled “Schedule Service and Price” filled out by the Offeror.

(viii) The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) provision FAR 52.212-2 Evaluation-Commercial Items, applies to this solicitation. The Government will award a Commercial Item, Firm-Fixed-Price, contract resulting from this RFP to the responsible offeror whose offer conforming to the RFP will be most advantageous to the Government, based on technical approach, experience, past performance, and price. When combined, technical evaluation factors are approximately equal to cost/price. THE FOLLOWING FACTORS SHALL BE ADDRESSED IN THE TECHNICAL PROPOSALS AND SHALL BE USED TO EVALUATE PROPOSALS: 1) The contractor must provide a narrative detailing the approach that they will take to meet the requirement. The contractor must illustrate its understanding of the requirement and its ability to provide the required services stated herein. The contractor shall submit a brief description of their company’s business and provide a company point of contact including address, e-mail address, telephone number, fax number and the company’s web-page address. Please note that technical proposals must contain a signed copy to the following statement: “All telephone numbers on the subscriber list are the strict property of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, International Broadcasting Bureau and may not be used by the Contractor for any purpose other than in the direct execution of duties as defined in this Statement of Work. Under no circumstances may the Contractor share, give, sell, deliver, or in any other fashion, distribute or use the telephone number lists provided by the IBB to any other business, organization, service, or any government, US or foreign. Any violation of this condition will result in termination of the contract for default with damages sought for actual prospective costs of recovery.” Please note that failure to provide the signed statement will result in an offeror’s proposal to be determined nonresponsive. (Technical Approach); 2) The Offeror shall provide recent examples (within the past three (3) years) demonstrating its experience in providing the services required under this Solicitation to Governmental and/or commercial customers. Examples provided should be of the same and/or similar services specified herein. (Experience) 3) Detailed information on past performance and relevant contracts for same and/or similar services with a minimum of three (3) references including contract numbers, points of contact with telephone numbers and email addresses (i.e., the point of contact who can verify performance) (Past Performance) and 4) Separate Price Proposal showing a price breakdown for CLIN above. The prices for shall be provided in English and United States dollars. The Price Proposal must contain Attachment A entitled “Schedule Service and Price” filled out by the Offeror and a signed copy of the SF 1449 which is attached to this notice. Offerors are cautioned that failure to address each of the above factors may deem their proposal unacceptable.

(ix) Offerors shall include a completed copy of the provision FAR 52.212-3 Offeror Representations and Certifications-Commercial Items with its offer. Proposals must also include contractor’s DUNS Number, prompt payment terms, and correct remittance address, if different from mailing address. The contractor must be registered on-line with the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) Web site at: http://www.ccr.gov/Start.aspx. The successful Offeror will be required to complete and submit an ACH form, for Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT), to the Contracting Officer before submitting their first invoice.

(x) The FAR clause 52.212-4 Contract Terms and Conditions-Commercial Items, applies to this acquisition with addendum to the clause. The addendum is as follows: I. AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE OF THE CONTRACTING OFFICER: The Contracting Officer will appoint by letter an Authorized Representative of the Contracting Officer (AR/CO), who will have the responsibility of ensuring that the work conforms to the requirements of the contract and such other responsibilities and authorities as may be specified in the letter of authorization or this contract. It is understood and agreed, in particular, that the AR/CO shall not have authority to make changes in the scope or terms and conditions of the contract unless and only to the extent that such authority is specified in the letter of authorization or the contract. THE CONTRACTOR IS HEREBY FOREWARNED THAT, ABSENT THE REQUISITE AUTHORITY OF THE AR/CO TO MAKE ANY SUCH CHANGES, IT MAY BE HELD FULLY RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY CHANGES NOT AUTHORIZED IN ADVANCE, IN WRITING, BY THE CONTRACTING OFFICER, MAY BE DENIED COMPENSATION OR OTHER RELIEF FOR ANY ADDITIONAL WORK PERFORMED THAT IS NOT SO AUTHORIZED, AND MAY ALSO BE REQUIRED, AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO THE GOVERNMENT, TO TAKE ALL CORRECTIVE ACTION NECESSITATED BY REASON OF THE UNAUTHORIZED ACTIONS. (End of Clause) II. PARTIAL EXECUTION OF THE BASE YEAR WORK UNDER THIS CONTRACT: The Government reserves the right to partially execute the Base Year in Attachment A entitled “Schedule Service and Price.” The parties agree that the Government may have to partially execute the Base Year in Attachment A and may do so multiple times up to the point that the Base Year has been fully executed. The Contractor, however, will not be entitled to any additional compensation beyond that associated with the amount of the Base Year. (End of Clause) III. EXERCISING OF OPTIONS UNDER THIS CONTRACT: The Government reserves the right to unilaterally exercise the options in Attachment A entitled “Schedule Service and Price.” The parties agree that the Government may have to partially exercise any options in Attachment A and may do so multiple times up to the point that the option has been fully exercised. The Contractor, however, will not be entitled to any additional compensation beyond that associated with the amount of the option exercise. (End of Clause)

(xi) FAR clause 52.212-5 Contract Terms and Conditions Required to Implement Statutes or Executive Orders-Commercial Items, applies to this solicitation by reference and proposed subsequent contract as well as the following clauses contained within FAR clause 52.212-5: 52.203-6 Restrictions on Subcontractor Sales to the Government (Sept 2006); 52.204-10, Reporting Executive compensation and First-Tier Subcontract Awards (Jul 2010); 52.219-8 Utilization of Small Business Concerns (May 2004); 52.219-28, Post Award Small Business Program Rerepresentation (Apr 2009); 52.222-3, Convict Labor (June 2003); 52.222-19, Child Labor—Cooperation with Authorities and Remedies (Jul 2010); 52.222-21 Prohibition of Segregated Facilities (Feb 1999); 52.222-26 Equal Opportunity(May 2007) (E.O. 11246); 52.222-35 Equal Opportunity for Veterans (Sept 2010); 52.222-36 Affirmative Action for Workers with Disabilities (Oct 2010); 52.222-37 Employment Reports on Veterans (Sept 2010); 52.222-40, Notification of Employee Rights Under the National Labor Relations Act (Dec 2010); 52.223-18, Encouraging Contractor Policies to Ban Text Messaging while Driving (Aug 2011); 52.225-13 Restrictions on Certain Foreign Purchases (June 2008) and 52.232-33 Payment by Electronic Funds Transfer-Central Contractor Registration (OCT 2003). Please note some clauses may not be applicable to a foreign offeror.

(xii) Additional FAR provisions and clauses incorporated by reference and applicable to this solicitation and the proposed subsequent contract are: 52.217-9 Option to Extend the Term of the Contract (Mar 2000) and 52.237-3 Continuity of Services (Jan 1991). There are no other additional contract requirement(s) necessary for this acquisition other than those consistent with customary commercial practices. NOTE: See Government-Wide Numbered Notes 13 and 25.

(xiv) No Defense Priorities and Allocation System (DPAS) rating assigned.

(xi) Failure to provide the required services for any the above CLIN may result in the rejection of your proposal. Proposals shall be in writing and must be signed by an official authorized to bind the organization. Oral, faxed or emailed proposals will not be accepted. Please note that questions must be submitted in writing to Myria Carpenter by email (mecarpen@bbg.gov) or fax (202-382-7870) and received before the deadline of 12:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time on August 29, 2011. Technical Proposals shall be submitted as an original and three copies and Price Proposals shall be submitted as an original and one copy. All proposals must be sent via courier or overnight delivery and must be received before deadline. Proposals are due at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, International Broadcasting Bureau, Office of Contracts, 330 C Street, SW, Room 4007B, Washington, DC 20237 on September 8, 2011, at 12:00PM, Eastern Time.

(xiii) Contact: Myria Carpenter, Contract Specialist, Facsimile 202-382-7870, email: mecarpen@bbg.gov. All responsible sources may submit an offer that will be considered by the Agency.

13 Comments

  1. karenlee says:

    The US government has contracted with a Maryland software company to design a system to saturate Cuban cellphones with text messages, presumably advocating “the American way”.
    Not only is this politically and ethically dirty, and in violation of all international communications laws — it is another form of economic warfare that hurts most the average Cuban, not the Cuban government. The cost of a cellphone in Cuba is expensive for most Cubans, and unwanted messages may have the opposite effect from what the USG hopes to obtain. Many if not most Cubans, in fact, don’t answer cellphone calls, but rather make note of the number and call back from a regular landline to keep their costs down. Unwanted text messages, which will greatly add to their bills, is the least likely way to “win hearts and minds” in that island nation. It would virtually eliminate cell phone use for the average Cuban. It seems that whoever is making policy is doing so from Washington and Miami with no time at all spent on the island. As usual. klw

  2. admin says:

    Karen – I think the text messages would be sent only to subscribers. If that’s true, these wouldn’t be unwanted messages. I’m not arguing for or against the program, just saying I’m not so sure this would be spam. Tracey

  3. laz says:

    free tour to cuba. congratulations!

  4. Esta nueva medida desarrollada contra Cuba por parte del gobierno federal de los EE. UU., con el propósito de colapsar a su sistema político, con razón o sin ella, forman parte de la Guerra Psicológica Mediática o Guerra sin fusiles (4GW) que es el empleo planificado de la propaganda y de la acción psicológica orientadas a direccional conductas, en la búsqueda de objetivos de control social, político o militar, sin recurrir al uso de la armas. Los medios de comunicación debido al alto desarrollo tecnológico e informático tienen la capacidad de influir en la opinión pública para que usted no procese información, sino que consuma información: noticias, títulos, imágenes, lo que excitan sus sentidos y su curiosidad, sin ninguna conexión entre sí y una velocidad que no le permite razonar (analizar). Cuando usted consume esta información sin analizar los por qué y los para qué, y los intereses que se mueven detrás de cada noticia o información periodística, está consumiendo, sin quererlo, propagada de la Guerra de Cuarta Generación. Cuba sabe muy bien que a pesar de ser ilegal, en Estados Unidos, su régimen esta enmarcado dentro de este tipo de guerra psicológica mediática, sin fusiles, pero la diferencia entre estos métodos de “tecnología punta de mano” (redes sociales: Facebook, Twitter, etc.) ensayado desarrollado con éxito por los Servicios Especiales de EE. UU. y Europa durante la Primavera Árabe (cuyos sistemas políticos aún permanecen intactos) con independencia de las poderosas razones –distribución y reubicación de los mercados de hidrocarburos- que existen detrás de estos levantamientos, así como en la invasión a Libia (cuyas condiciones estaban creadas a consecuencias principalmente del acercamiento del Gadafi a gobiernos del primer mundo, por influencias de su hijo Saif al Islam, abandonando a las fuerza de izquierda (del tercer mundo) las que no hubieran permitido esta invasión y lo hubieran apoyado en diferentes foros internacionales e incluso en el campo de operaciones, como sucede con Siria. Valga señalar que las condiciones para una “Primavera Cubana” no son reales, ni posibles, en esta isla del caribe, los cubanos, en primer termino, no son árabes. Los Castro llegaron al poder por las armas, y por las armas habría que arrebatárselo, y los tiempos que corren, cibernéticos, son de una Guerra de Cuarta Generación, Psicológica, Mediática y sin Fusiles en la que al parecer la isla comienza a prepararse para enfrentarla y si tuviera que apostar, guste o no, quien saldría vencedor en esta nueva “batalla” sin duda lo haría en su favor. Shalón Dr. Alfonso. http://www.quepasamiami.orgquepasamiami1@hotmail.comdr.alfonso46@yahoo.com.

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