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University investment in phone system worth cost

To the editor:

As the University’s Chief Information Officer, one of my responsibilities is oversight of our telecommunications system. In a guest column last month, a faculty member questioned the cost and necessity of our new phone system. I wanted to take a moment to clear up some possible misconceptions.

The new phone system is a part of the upgrades we have made as part of a “Unified Communications Project.” Earlier this year, we entered into a five-year contract with Cisco Systems to provide the University’s 4,500-plus phone lines and related services like voice mail along with a host of other important system enhancements and new services.

Our old phone system was installed in 2001 and had reached the end of its effective life. Like any purchase we make at the University, we looked for a system that would meet the needs of our students and faculty at the best possible value. I believe we were extremely successful in meeting both of those goals.

By partnering with two other Ohio Universities [Shawnee State and Ohio University] in the bidding process, we were able to secure a much better system at a slightly lower cost— $550,000 a year— than what we were paying for the old telephone system. Because Cisco is also the provider to the majority of Ohio’s other major state colleges and universities, we anticipate that there will be additional opportunities for savings.

Some of the most important improvements involve 9-1-1 emergency calls. As part of this new system the University was able to partner with the Wood County Sheriff’s Office to route calls more accurately and efficiently. Additionally, an enhanced feature has been added for 9-1-1 calls made from cellular phones. Calls from cellular phones will appear on a map for the 9-1-1 dispatcher to provide greater location details for first responders.

Other features of the new system include:

WebX, an online meeting service that can accommodate up to 1,000 participants;

Upgrades to our call centers for the Office of the Bursar, Office of Admissions and 14 other departments, which will enhance customer service and response time;

The ability to send “Alert BG” emergency information to phone displays;

Video calling;

Instant messaging;

From a faculty perspective, it is important to understand that the University is required to provide phone and voicemail services under the terms of our collective bargaining agreement with the BGSU Faculty Association.

I hope this provides a clearer understanding of the need and benefits of our Unified Communication plan.

John Ellinger

Chief Information Officer

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