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
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 (http://www.acsalaska.com/)
I can see some advantages ACS offers Ketchikan.
Let's look at the following
table for comparisons:
- 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
- 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.
- 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 (http://www.alsk.com/board.stm).
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 (http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?s=ALSK&t=5y)
- 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
- 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?
Ketchikan, AK - USA
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