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KIC Saves $40.5k Annually with VoIP Technology


June 02, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - Ketchikan Indian Community's General Manager Georgianna Zimmerle is proud to announce the completion of an 18-month cooperative project to reduce telecommunications and long distance costs through the use of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services. Zimmerle said, "She applauds the work of the Information Technology (IT) Department and the Finance Department for the success of this project." Zimmerle is looking for savings starting next month that amounts to half the previous cost for local telephone service. KIC anticipates an annual savings of $40,500 through more efficient local and long distance services.

"This and other initiatives like it are imperative for KIC to continue to grow and provide high quality services to KIC Tribal Members."
KIC Tribal Council
President Sam Bergeron

Several years of explosive growth overloaded the phone lines at KIC's Health Clinic and Administrative Services, Hatchery and Eagle Center, and 429 Deermount locations. The number of employees working at KIC doubled from 1996 to 2005 with the number of employees growing from 60 to about 150 employees. During the same nine years, the gross revenues have increased from $2.4 million to $14.5 million. The resulting communication problems drove KIC's administrative staff to find a solution with a plan to integrate the telephone system into KIC's already robust televideo and data network.

KIC staff, led by KIC's Chief Technology Officer Rick Grams, joined forces with AT&T Alascom of Anchorage and Jeffus & Williams of Juneau. The team prepared a plan to replace three incompatible and out-of-date telephone systems with a consolidated advanced communications system that meets today's needs and tomorrow's growth. When the plan was presented to the KIC Tribal Council, the Council gave serious consideration to the importance of safety in KIC's health care environment and the loss of productivity due to inefficient call routing. The KIC Tribal Council gave the "go ahead" authorization at the beginning of 2004 with a unanimous vote.

KIC's new communications system addresses safety concerns by providing the capability to broadcast emergencies throughout one, two or all three of KIC's buildings. The new system provides call transfer capability throughout the KIC organization eliminating the need for multiple call referrals to a different number. The new system saves time for KIC staff and the tribal member enjoys the opportunity to be connected anywhere within KIC on a single phone call. KIC benefits from cost free long distance calls to Anchorage for KIC business utilizing existing circuits. This is a long distance cost savings of 14.9 cents per minute for these calls. Since KIC's Health Clinic does a significant amount of business in the Anchorage area through its triage lines and medical referrals, this means savings that average $600 per month or $7,200 per year.

KIC's Chief Technology Officer Rick Grams and Finance Director Lance Mertz worked closely with Ketchikan Public Utilities (KPU) to evaluate the phone lines in existence. Following exhaustive research, KPU and staff discovered that KIC had 75 phone numbers assigned to it. Each phone line averaged a cost of $37 per month for a total cost of $2,775 per month. With the new system these costs have been eliminated, saving about $33,300 per year. Numerous other cost savings have been accumulated through the evaluation and improvement of telephone listings, and conversion of fax numbers from separate telephone lines to the integrated system.

This project addresses two of the initiatives outlined in KIC's 2004 Strategic Plan. Initiative One says that KIC as an organization will become more self-sufficient. KIC's IT Department led by Rick Grams, Chief Technology Officer, supports this system with KIC's IT staff by adding lines, improving service and maintaining repairs. KIC no longer relies on an outside vendor to do this work and saves at least $75 per service call.

This project also addresses Initiative Three: "Clear and appropriate internal and external communication." With this system KIC delivers the communication tools to assist members and one incoming telephone call can now be transferred to any department at any location within KIC. This improvement eliminates the frustration previously experienced by members who had to make several telephone calls to get to the right person and staff resources.

A large part of this project involved the complete rewiring of the networks at both 429 Deermount, which houses KIC's Employment and Training, Higher Education and Johnson O'Malley Programs; and 1158 Salmon Drive which is home to KIC's hatchery King Salmon, Coho and Steelhead Salmon as well as several Bald Eagles, and various exciting birds that are part of KIC's new tourism program. KIC's IT Department also replaced the entire core network infrastructure at the 2960 Tongass Avenue location. The new technology supports telemedicine capabilities, videoconferencing, and regular conference calling. Staff looks forward to adding new technologies that this system is capable of supporting and that are not available at this time.

Through this initiative KIC has leveraged the latest technology and staff resources to not only save money, but improve service and communications. According to President Sam Bergeron, "This and other initiatives like it are imperative for KIC to continue to grow and provide high quality services to KIC Tribal Members."


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Ketchikan Indian Community
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