December 21, 2014

New phones bring county building into digital age

By Kevin Bunch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
Posted

ARENAC COUNTY — Officials expect that a new phone system, which is nearly finished being installed in Arenac County buildings, will save the county thousands of dollars a month.

Approximately 100 phones in the Arenac County Building, the Arenac County Sheriff’s Department, the county jail, Arenac County Central Dispatch and other county departments are being replaced, according to County Clerk Rick Rockwell.

Installation of the new telnet digital phone system began in December, and Arenac County Commissioner Mike Snyder said it should be completed by mid-January.

“It’s a massive upgrade,” Snyder said. “The whole goal was to reduce dramatically the cost of phone service.”

Snyder said the new telnet phone system and wiring, plus installation, cost approximately $34,000. The system is being operated through Complete Communications Inc., located in Clinton Township near Detroit.

Snyder said it was a “quite a deal.” He said AT&T subsidiary Michigan Bell wanted the same amount for only installing the hardware.

The telnet system uses the county’s T1 Internet line to run phone services rather than using a traditional analog network. Snyder said this is preferable in the long run, since the county is looking into upgrading further to a Voice over IP, or VoIP, system down the line. With the new phone system, transitioning to VoIP would not require new infrastructure.

Snyder said Central Dispatch would have VoIP installed by mid-January, before the rest of the county, as it would fit the office’s call load needs best.

Upgrading the phone system became a necessity when the county building’s older Centrex system began failing in September. Snyder explained that the voicemail went down first, followed by call transferring.

“It was not good,” Snyder said. “The public would call in and the number would just ring and ring.”

In September, the Arenac County Board of Commissioners began looking into replacing the Centrex system entirely.

Rockwell said the system needed to be replaced for years before it began to fail, and replacement parts for the old system were both hard to come by and not necessarily able to fix the issues they were having.

“It was money down a rathole,” he said. “It would have cost $6,000-$7,000 to replace the parts with no guarantee that it would be fixed.”

Rockwell added that the county will save money on the business line with the telnet system. With the Centrex system, he said the county paid 9 cents a call for local numbers; but with the telnet system, they would only have to pay “a penny or two.”

Snyder said the county is looking into further technological upgrades down the line, including a fiber optic line that is planned to go through the county building later this year, as well as moving county data to “cloud-based” remote storage and access.

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