The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 35.0°F | Overcast

A T&T to replace MCIon January 1

do not call them American Telephone and Telegraph

By Prabhat Mehta

Effective Jan. 1, AT&T will replace MCI as the preferred long-distance carrier for the Institute's phone system. MCI's departure comes after numerous complaints of poor service, particularly with regard to the billing/collection service BITEK, according to Director of Telecommunications Systems Morton R. Berlan.

MCI was hired initially by MIT to become the preferred carrier when the Institute adopted the new 5ESS phone system last year. To handle billing and collection, MCI in turn hired BITEK -- a company based in California -- without MIT's approval, Berlan said.

Based on the results of a survey taken last spring as well as "anecdotal" information, "dissatisfaction" with BITEK among students was detected, Berlan said. As a result of this growing awareness that MCI was not providing "satisfactory service," MCI was given a required 180-days notice early in the fall that it would lose its contract on Dec. 31, Berlan added.

Berlan noted that most problems stemmed from BITEK's billing procedures. "There was a noticeable billing problem," he said. On some occasions, he added, he was forced to intervene on behalf of students with billing complaints.

Problems with accounts

One problem, which may become even more serious as MCI -- and hence BITEK -- leaves, is that of student accounts. In order to avoid problems with delinquent accounts, BITEK requires that students keep accounts from which bills may be deducted. Many students have had great difficulty in getting unspent account money back from BITEK, Berlan said.

MIT has been trying to work out arrangements with local MCI officials to get the remaining accounts settled before MCI pulls out. "We are bringing pressure on [MCI]," Berlan said. However, he admitted, "We haven't gotten a response back."

"From a legal standpoint, [MCI has ultimate] responsibility for billing and collecting," Berlan said. For that reason, he felt that accounts would eventually be taken care of. "MCI would not want this thing to go public," he said.

Nevertheless, Berlan suggested that students try to get back whatever money they have in BITEK as soon as possible. "It's a real concern.... We also have that concern," he said.

Neither BITEK nor MCI could be reached for comment.

"A better arrangement"

At about the same time MIT gave notice to MCI to terminate its service, an agreement was reached with AT&T to serve as the new preferred carrier. "AT&T offered us a better arrangement," Berlan said. [MIT cannot have two carriers at once because of the cost, Berlan noted.]

Last week, AT&T representatives passed out information on the new campus service, called ACUS. Like the BITEK system, AT&T ACUS provides each student with an access number with which to make calls. Under ACUS, however, students will not be required to keep deposits in their accounts; they will only be billed once calls are actually made.

Though AT&T does not officially take over until Jan. 1, the access numbers, known as Personal Security Codes, "are active and ready for ... use," according to an information letter by Lynne T. Schenden of AT&T.

Those students who wish to use another long-distance carrier can simply ignore ACUS and will not be charged for the availability of direct AT&T service. They may also cancel the service if they wish.