Sunday, January 04, 2009

Potential New Telecom Fee (and how to avoid it)

According this article in The Chronicle, and the linked letter from the Americal Council on Education, fee increases to the "universal service fund" [wiki] to universities could rise $1/mo per phone number. This would put higher education's contribution at about $450 million, or about eight times what it is now.

It's not a done deal yet, but any institution rethinking its phone system might be wise to consider this change. If I understand the fee correctly it is a charge for each assigned number or DID [wiki] in phone-speak. DIDs are usually purchased in blocks of twenty, and don't cost very much. This fee would make them substantially more expensive. Each such number allows direct dialing to a phone on someone's desk. With modern switching technology, however, there is an alternative, if somewhat less convenient for the caller. Everyone is familiar with extensions to number--you call a main number and then connect through a switchboard to your party ("if you know the extension of the party you're trying to reach, you may dial it at any time..."). Theortically, the whole institution could have one phone number, and use extensions for every office. Even a tiny college can easily have 500 DIDs if dorms have phones (this is becoming less common now). A large university would have thousands. That adds up to a lot of money.

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