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Berlan sees phone system as improving in past year

By Cliff Schmidt

Many improvements have been made on MIT's 5ESS telephone system since its installation in Nov. 1988, according to Director of Telecommunications Systems Morton Berlan.

Work began on the 5ESS system in the spring of 1986 in an effort to develop a more sophisticated yet economically feasible telephone system. The old Centrex system was owned by New England Telephone and located in their offices; this made efficient use of the system much more difficult than the new MIT-owned 5ESS system.

Soon after the switch-over, in Dec. 1988, approximately 30 problems with the system (such as no dial tone) were reported daily, the same as the average for the Centrex system. Since then, however, the number of complaints has been reduced by 33 percent, according to Berlan. He claimed that the turn-around between complaint and correction has been reduced to practically 24 hours.

American Telegraph & Telephone, the designer of the 5ESS system, warranteed the system for one year beginning last February. Thus, in addition to MIT's own technicians, AT&T also has their technicians trying to fix the problems falling under the warranty.

The current long-distance carrier for MIT's dormitory phones, MCI, has not worked out as well as hoped and will soon be replaced by AT&T, Berlan said. Student complaints with MCI have been building up since early this year. One of the problems was with Bitek, the company MCI hired to take care of all billing for dormitory phones. Bitek has been criticized for late billing and short business hours.

Berlan responded to the student dissatisfaction with MCI by looking into new proposals from MCI and AT&T (Sprint did not offer a campus phone plan suitable for MIT). Among other reasons, AT&T's offer was chosen because it has had a better record of success with systems such as MIT's, Berlan said. Although Berlan accepted AT&T's offer in late spring, MIT is under contractual obligation with MCI to continue service for 180 days after statement of termination is made.

Service from MCI will continue until Dec. 31. Until then, students may continue to use other long distance companies by dialing a "950-" number to connect them to their own personal carrier.