WENATCHEE — The PUD’s latest effort to lower fiber-optic system costs could result in slightly higher monthly fees for some customers who receive telephone service over the PUD’s fiber-optics network.
Commissioners Monday will vote on a staff proposal that would reduce annual fiber costs by as much as $200,000 by contracting with LocalTel Communications of East Wenatchee to monitor and maintain the battery system that keeps fiber-delivered telephone service active when the lights go out.
LocalTel spokesman Mark Sullivan said battery costs could add an optional $1 per month service fee for customers who want the company to monitor and maintain their batteries. This would include replacement costs when the batteries die.
The PUD had previously done this for free.
The batteries keep an old-style analog phone working for up to eight hours during a power outage, Mike Coleman, the PUD’s director of fiber and communications, told commissioners last week.
They provide back up only for the traditional, corded telephones connected to traditional phone jacks with service delivered not by a national provider, like Frontier, but by LocalTel through the same power-supply box needed for a fiber-optic hookup.
Some 12,000 of the batteries are in use by about 5,900 customers countywide, Coleman said.
If commissioners approve the contract Tuesday, LocalTel Communications, will launch a three-year effort to remove all the batteries and place new batteries only on the systems of the customers who want them.
Currently, about 1,000 of the batteries are nearing the end of their three-to-five-year useful life and need replacement.
These spent batteries can overheat, swell and cause their wall-mounted, plastic cases to bulge. They may also emit an odor like rotten eggs, Coleman said. The PUD can monitor the condition of the batteries remotely, by computer.
PUD officials favor passing the cost and responsibility of maintaining the batteries to LocalTel, because traditional, corded phone service is becoming a thing of the past as customers turn to cell phones, more sophisticated corded phones that require electricity and increased use of “Voice over IP” — telephone service delivered over the Internet, Coleman said. A consultant hired by the PUD to study how to reduce fiber costs recommended the move, PUD officials say.
For more information, call LocalTel, 888-8888.