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ARCHIVED  August 27, 1999

How to choose a telecommunications

The telecommunications landscape, where so many businesses do most of their business, changes almost daily.
Business owners and operators who can’t find enough time to stay abreast of all the new developments wander in a bewildering jungle where jargon reigns and questions abound: Voice and data together or separate? ISDN or T1? How much of the new technology do I need? How much of the latest can I do without?
Rule No. 1: Assume that you can’t find the answers alone. That means choosing a telecommunications service provider who can focus on what you need while you focus on what you do in your business.
Choices abound. Telecom companies are proliferating. Most major metropolitan areas offer 20 to 30 choices of service providers, and even smaller cities can have more than a half dozen companies from which to choose. But the ability of these companies to meet the needs of businesses can vary greatly.
Experts who have watched the telecom industry bloom during the past decade can offer some advice.
First, look for stability. With so many startup telecom businesses nibbling at pieces of the industry pie, levels of expertise and experience cover a wide range. Ask questions. How long has this company been in business? Just as important, how long has this company been in this business?
Telecom providers depend on relationships with what the industry calls “incumbents” — for example, U S West and other major providers of telecommunications transmission. Those relationships take time to develop, and are critical to the smaller providers’ ability to offer quality service.
Second, ask about technology advantages. Does the company you’re considering have their own switching and transmission equipment? Do they have their own fiber optic cable in the ground? Such infrastructure gives some larger providers an edge, but smaller companies can offset that with leased facilities that perform the same function. Access to the technology is the key.
Third, make sure the employees who work for the telecom provider are reliable. The service they provide can make or break a business’ investment in telecommunications. Find out how long your sales rep has been with the firm, and how much he knows about it. That will tell you something about accountability, and give you an indication of whether you could pick up the phone and have someone respond the same day.
Finally, consider cost — but not for too long. Businesses that have had success in finding a reliable, high-quality telecommunications provider will say that price should be the least-important consideration. Price becomes even less important as service costs fall with increased competition.
Some providers offer service that is virtually free. With price points so close together, it’s not worth choosing the lowest bid if it means that you can’t make a phone call or log onto the Internet when you want to.

The telecommunications landscape, where so many businesses do most of their business, changes almost daily.
Business owners and operators who can’t find enough time to stay abreast of all the new developments wander in a bewildering jungle where jargon reigns and questions abound: Voice and data together or separate? ISDN or T1? How much of the new technology do I need? How much of the latest can I do without?
Rule No. 1: Assume that you can’t find the answers alone. That means choosing a telecommunications service provider who can focus on what you need while you focus on what…

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