Highland Calls on New Phone Service Provider

Adam McDonald, Belleville News Democrat – The Highland City Council on Monday approved a new landline phone service agreement between Highland Communication Services (HCS) and Momentum Telecom.

The new agreement will begin in May 2017, at which time the city will end its current partnership with Big River Communication Services for phone services.

“The city has been with Big River for quite some time. When HCS engaged in a relationship with Big River, there were no internal resources who could really understand the engineering,” said Angela Imming, director technology and Innovation for HCS. “It was decided that Big River, because they provide all those services, was a good partner at that time.”

But things have changed.

The current contract requires that Big River engineers be involved in service aspects. However, HCS now employs engineering expertise in-house, meaning the city can increase its profit margin (expected to be about $80,000) by doing such work itself.

“We pay for services from Big River, but there are other stipulations in the service contract. When we submit a ticket, they have eight hours to pick that up and work on it,” Imming said. “They don’t give me access to their resources.”

That’s why Imming recommended the council agree to partner with Momentum Telecom.

“Switching to Momentum would reduce wait time, and HCS could become more self-reliant. We want to make this as seamless as possible,” Imming said.

Momentum would allow the city to use its own engineers to troubleshoot problems, she said.

“They (Momentum) are going to let us borrow their PBX (Post Branch Exchange), which is what gives you the dial tone. It’s the brains of the phone service. It’s the ink in your pen,” Imming said.

Momentum Telecom offers five geographic redundant voices switches, which means if one of the five switchboards went down, there are four more Momentum can use. Big River has fewer boards.

As part of the new transition, Imming also recommended, and the council approved, entering into an agreement with Great Lakes Data Systems (GLDS) in order to bring subscriber management and billing functions in house. This means having the option of online payments instead of traditional mail for HCS customers.

“If HCS is able to move customer billing in house with existing employee resource levels, the savings will be the difference of $2.50-$.465 and the cost of paper and envelopes,” Imming said in a memo to council members.

Imming said GLDS will provide mailing services for the price of a first class stamp, plus 28 cents, or a savings of $1.75 per subscriber.

“Our goal is always to drive down operation inefficiencies,” Imming said. “We will also move to a paperless billing solution for all those who will accept that form.”

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