Originally created 11/13/97

City eyes telephone savings



Competition for local phone service to the Augusta government is going to save taxpayers at least $100,000 per year.

The savings could help taxpayers by chipping away a piece of Augusta's projected $9.5 million overage in next year's budget.

Since KMC Telecom Augusta has begun offering local phone service, Augusta officials decided to look for a bargain. They have proposals from KMC and BellSouth, the current provider, to save $100,000 over the next year if it signs an exclusive agreement with either of the companies.

Both companies have offered greater savings if Augusta commissioners agree to an exclusive deal for the 32 months remaining on their seven-year, basic contract. The basic contract allows the city go around BellSouth to find better deals.

Monday, the finance committee of the commission voted to sign a second exclusive contract with BellSouth. The full commission will vote on it next Tuesday.

In the meantime, Augusta's technical manager, Gary Hewett, said KMC has until 5 p.m. today to sweeten its offer. He favors signing a one-year deal with either company so he can shop for a bigger savings next year when more phone companies are competing in the Augusta market.

"Competition is a good thing. It's working just like they said," Mr. Hewett said, referring to federal regulators who structured local phone competition.

Regardless of which company commissioners choose, BellSouth will provide service and repairs since KMC resells BellSouth's service. Wednesday, BellSouth announced two surveys ranked it tops in customer service among major U.S. telephone companies.

For the second consecutive year, the Yankee Group joined J.D. Powers & Associates in naming BellSouth first in customer satisfaction in separate surveys. The American Society for Quality Control and the University of Michigan Business School presented similar awards over the last two years.