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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ohio General Assembly: Saves $$$$ With VOIP Phones

COLUMBUS (TDB) -- A recent development in telephone technology, besides the cellphone explosion, is VOIP, which allows you to make voice calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a traditional phone line. Now we are learning the Ohio House and Senate have switched the legislative phone system to VOIP in a cost-cutting move and expect to spend about $30,000 on calls for the rest of the state's fiscal year. We also learn the phone bills "often contain errors" that state workers have to straighten out.

The Legislative Services Commission plans to ask the controlling board for money tomorrow to improve financial accountability for House and Senate telephone use. Right now, it says there is no clear record of legislative calls.

"For reasons of economy, House and Senate telephone calls are made over Internet protocol (VOIP). LISO (legislative information systems office) purchased the servers, switches, and telephones for making VOIP calls, and currently pays the telephone bills it receives for such calls from AT&T (for local calls) and Quest Communications (for long-distance calls)," the budget request says, adding that the bills are confusing and often contain errors.

"The House and Senate would like LISO to continue to monitor and pay their monthly telephone bills because the bills are complex and often contain errors that LISO has the expertise to understand and correct. But the House and Senate also want to reimburse LISO for calls made from House and Senate phones, in the past as well as in the future, but in a way that keeps payments and reimbursements for their calls separate from other LISO revenues and expenditures and demonstrates the accountability of the House and Senate for such amounts."

VOIP is growing in popularity. Some services are closed, meaning you can call only those people who use the same company, and others allow calls to any telephone number. Some allow computers and laptops to be used as phones. Others work in wireless areas.

The entire controlling board agenda is HERE. It shows a long list of agency financial requests ranging from special counsel appointments by the attorney general's office to education spending contracts.

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