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Bitek draws fire over poor service, late bills

By Eun S. Shin

Over 1000 MIT students have subscribed with MCI for long-distance service since last fall, but Bitek, the company MCI hired to take care of billing, has come under sharp criticism for late billing and short office hours.

Bitek's regional office, located in the MCI building on Boylston Street, is open for only four hours on business days and, until recently, from 9 am to 1 pm, when many classes are in session.

Some students have complained of late and incorrect billing, as well as inefficient business practices. Winnie Chan '90 termed Bitek "bad business people" after Bitek discontinued its service and never restarted the service even after her fees were paid.

Bitek, a telecommunications firm based in California, began servicing MIT as a result of a contract between MIT and MCI. The three-year contract may be terminated by either MIT or MCI, according to Director of Telecommunication Systems Morton Berlan, who was responsible for the selection of MCI.

"In the selection process, MCI was chosen because it met with MIT's demand to be left out of the billing system," Berlan said. Due to collections problems in the student rebilling market, MCI in turn hired Bitek to be responsible for billing. In usual practice, the university is responsible for student's default payments.

The result of a third party may be higher prices for services. Acknowledging the issue, Berlan stated that "MIT was not pleased" with MCI's use of Bitek and reiterated that the contract is strictly between MIT and MCI.

Christopher Powers, major account representative for MCI, however, denied the possibility of higher prices because of MCI's use of Bitek. "The students are charged at regular MCI dial rates with a bulk rate going to Bitek from MCI," Powers said.

The $50 deposit required by Bitek has also created some misunderstanding. Powers, referring to complaints on the deposit, stated that the terminology of "deposit" is wrong. Rather, the $50 is a credit balance that protects Bitek against default payments. When the credit runs out, the service is automatically discontinued until a new payment is made. No warning is given prior to the invalidation.

In an attempt to improve its services, Bitek has moved its office hours to 3-7 pm. The late billing problems are due to "rough edges" in the new system and should be resolved as the arrangement is put more to practice, according to Berlan.

Both Powers and Berlan are optimistic about the system thus far. Asked about the success of the program, Powers replied, "By and large, it's been very good. There are some initial problems, but in a new system, there are bound to be adjustments."