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The ACS proposal
by Rick Grams


January 10, 2005

Regarding the ACS proposal to purchase KPU Telecom, I think over the long run it would be best for the city of Ketchikan to take advantage of the ACS offer.  I'm trying to look at this in a business sense and a technological sense.  Unfortunately when these proposals are presented the most important asset of any organization is often overlooked - the employees.

KPU has some of the best customer service staff on the market when it comes to billing and ordering.  They are always willing to take the time to go over a bill, recommend a cost effective path, and smile even when the customer is in a state of panic.  In my job, I've worked with KPU staff almost weekly over the past five years regarding bills, ordering and technical troubleshooting.  Just to reiterate what I am trying to say - The employees at KPU are exceptional at customer service!  My only concern about KPU's support is when the Internet service help desk needs to be called.  I've had to use that several times which leads me to a person in Anchorage (MTA I think it is).  They always ask some general questions and act as if the person they are talking to is an idiot - nope, I do not like to deal with that part of the system. We all need to be aware of the fact that part of the job has already been "farmed" out.

Excellent customer service aside, from my view (and I do not know all the "deep" facts) I like the idea of ACS providing telecommunications services to Ketchikan.  ACS is a statewide company, for profit, and deeply involved with the technological advances throughout our state.  After reviewing the corporate information on the ACS web site ( I can see some advantages ACS offers Ketchikan.


Let's look at the following table for comparisons:

gif table

 General issues

  • Internet service is pretty straightforward.  KPU brought high speed Internet access to Ketchikan and then the GCI cable broadband followed.
  • Satellite affiliate is in regards to ACS working with the Dish network to provide television services in Alaska.  Currently KPU is expending a large sum of money on creating a digital television service.  Kudos to KPU staff working on that project, but why reinvent something that can be provided by ACS?
  • Wireless service. I am not familiar with any plans for KPU to move into the competitive wireless market.  ACS is already there, and has been for some time.  We need this wireless presence to have a competitive market (referring to the competition between ACS and Cellular One).
  • Online bill paying is not an option with any of KPU's services.  KPU does offer the option to automatically deduct from a back account though.

Business Issues

  • KPU does not have a Board of Directors. The elected city government assumes that role a practice in which I disagree. KPU telecommunications is authorized to be run "as a business" and it should have a board of directors separate from the political process of managing local government.  The board of directors could be appointed by the elected body or in another process. Either way this board should have the authority to run KPU as a business, applying business strategies to long term planning and growth.  This authority should not be over-ruled by the elected body at any time - no not ever.  That is how business works.
  • ACS not only has a board of directors, but a "qualified" one at that.  Review the history of each person on the board at (  Impressive leadership style people to jump on board with.  These are people with experience at applying vision with business parameters, responding to the financial factors of spending vs. revenue vs. profit/return of investments.
  • Regional stability for KPU is provided by local taxpayer dollars. I understand KPU has a reserve fund of some $45 million that can be used for anything KPU management sees fit to apply it to ­ like reinventing services that already exist with ACS.  I'll admit this figure is questionable but the concept should be clear.
  • ACS has regional stability through corporate mechanisms.  Undoubtedly there is some form of insurance on the ACS infrastructure along with investments in profitable organizations around the world to sustain operations in a time of crisis or catastrophe. ACS has also had a steady climb of value in stocks ( - after a long and terrible fall during the Jan 2000 to Aug 2002 time period ACS has made a consistent and positive recovery.  These results are indicative of a successful financial/management team.
  • Owning shares in stock is one method individuals and groups in all sectors of society invest and seek profits after a period of time.  Taking this concept down to an individual level (meaning your wallet and mine) we could be customers of a company that we also hold stocks in.  We all talk about investing in Alaska, seeking the best products for our localities, never wanting to be left behind from the rest of the country.
  • With KPU and the reserves in holding relating to KPU telecommunications, how does that benefit our personal wallets?  The fact is it doesn't.  KPU's additional funds belong to future products (to compete with or prevent other like products).

 All of the above are my perception of the facts.  There are certainly factors that I am unaware of which could be addressed through an independent third party comparison of the business facts.  I think our community is owed a comparative analysis of these facts along with the long term viability of running a government business.  A government business needs to have elected officials who are experienced in the specific area of that business.  With telecommunication, this should be at a minimum statewide experience but preferably nationwide.  Are we to assume for foreseeable future our locally elected leadership will automatically have experience in these areas?

Rick Grams
Ketchikan, AK - USA



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