Press Release 2009 02 03 by chrstphr

 Business Case in Point:

Wayne Township, N.J. finds savior in converged Ethernet
Unearths savings by porting services onto Optimum Lightpath by Sean Buckley Tues. February 3, 2009 In his “State of the Township” address, the Mayor of Wayne Township, N.J. Christopher Vergano painted an all-too-familiar picture every town and city is facing: shrinking local budgets in a troubled economic time. “The year 2009 is going to be a very difficult one for the Wayne Township Municipal Government,” he said. “We pledge to be diligent in preparing a budget that is fiscally conservative while still meeting the needs of our constituency.” Located only 20 miles from midtown New York, Wayne Township, like many U.S. cities and towns is trying to find creative ways to save the taxpayer money. One area the Wayne Township thought it could save some money on was its telecom services. This idea was hatched by the mayor's desire to save on his residential phone service.

"Because I did it at my house, why can’t we do it here? ... Sure enough our IT director Scott Pasternak went and did the research... and said 'we can do it here and we can save $50,000 a year once we’re done making the switch'." Mayor Christopher Vergano, Wayne Township, N.J.

Tired of paying over US$100 to local provider Verizon Communications for his residential phone service, Vergano decided to look at alternative service providers. When he began his quest, his sister-in-law tipped him off about Cablevision’s VoIP service. She had decided to ditch local provider Verizon Communications and sign up with Cablevision for their VoIP service and saw an instant reduction in what she paid for phone service. So Vergano decided to give the New York-based MSO a chance. “I investigated it and as it turned out I ended up paying $29.99 for the first line and $14.95 for the second line, which is quite a substantial savings over the $100 that I was paying to Verizon every month for phone service,” he said. Since he was able to save on phone service, Vergano wondered if the local government could do the same. “Because I did it at my house, why can’t we do it here?” he asked. “You know the way government works: there’s that brick wall that goes up and says 'no we can’t do it that way'. Sure enough our IT director Scott Pasternak went and did the research and called me several weeks later and said 'we can do it here and we can save $50,000 a year once we’re done making the switch'.” Not only did the switch to Cablevision’s business subsidiary Optimum Lightpath save them money, it did not cause any disruption to the voice or data service experience. “The bottom line is when someone picks up a phone and dials 9 for an outside line or picks up a phone when it’s ringing, they want a good quality stable phone service and they don’t want to sound like they’re speaking out of a bathroom,” said Scott Pasternak, Wayne Township's IT director. “The key here is transparency to the people doing their daily jobs and that’s where we felt this project was most successful.” And while saving $50,000 on telecom services probably won’t grab national headlines, it’s a tangible benefit in a tough economic time that other local cities and towns will likely be considering in the next year. Enterprise-grade solution While the idea of saving money on their communications infrastructure was certainly compelling on the surface, IT director Pasternak obviously had some initial concerns.

At the top of his list was making sure that they were able to get what he calls an “enterprise grade” solution to ensure it could maintain consistent level of municipal services for the township’s residents. “When the mayor presented me with the idea, my concern was I needed to ensure we implemented an enterprise grade solution primarily because we’re in the business of providing public safety services,” he said. “That goes beyond police, fire and ambulance. We needed to make sure we maintained communications even for public works.” Another issue was resolving the two telecom contracts it had in place. Prior to consolidating its voice and data services onto a Metro Ethernet-based connection from Optimum Lightpath, there were a number of issues that the township would have to reconcile. Already, Wayne Township was leveraging Optimum Lightpath for a SONET-based WAN that is connected between its town hall and Department of Public Works complexes. Simultaneously, it had a contract with Verizon to provide it with two PRIs that came into the town hall complex for traditional voice service. And while the idea of consolidating all of its services with one operator was enticing, the sticking point was that neither contract was up. “Since we had contracts with both of those vendors, we felt it was best to consolidate with one of the two vendors to capitalize on our initial investment,” he said. “Also, we wanted to adjust an existing contract as opposed to canceling multiple contracts, which would have been cost-prohibitive for the township because of potential penalties canceling contracts.” After making a side-by-side comparison of the benefits of consolidating its services with Verizon and Optimum Lightpath, it found that the best solution was Optimum Lightpath. With Optimum Lightpath, the township now no longer has to pay separate bills for local, Long Distance and data services. By consolidating all of its data and voice services onto the Optimum Lightpath connection, Wayne Township has a 10 Mbps Metro Ethernet connection with 3 Mbps dedicated to 2 PRIs for voice. “The mayor is very happy that we’re running VoIP, although technically I know that we’re not,” Pasternak said. “The cost associated with the carrier-grade Ethernet and the consolidation is commensurate on an enterprise-grade level with what he understands as VoIP.” Driving responsiveness In switching to Optimum Lightpath, the township believes that it will be able to be more responsive to both its constituents and of course internal needs. The Optimum Lightpath network is designed to enable them to communicate with township administrators and staff via various methods besides the telephone. This communication could range from anything as simple as getting a question about a sewer bill form to leveraging the township’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) database. “We need to be able to give all of our residents, all of our businesses as well as visitors of Wayne Township different ways to communicate with us to provide them the information they need,” Pasternak said. “If we can do all of that through a single contract to reduce the financial burden on our residents then I say all the better.” Not surprisingly, the township is moving quickly to a Web 2.0 environment. For example, the township has integrated its FAQ database with a live help desk. This means if a question comes in that might be relevant to a large group of people they can publish it to the public so the next person that asks a question can get an answer right there without having to talk to a live township employee. “We have statistics on how many people are initiating a question with the township and are actually dropping out of that process because they get the answer halfway through it because of the FAQ database and the way our helpdesk is integrated into it,” Pasternak said. And while no particular plans are in place, Wayne Township says that the second phase of its Web 2.0 development will integrate utility bills, property taxes, parks and recreation activity into the Web portal. The new common network infrastructure has improved communications between staff members and the township’s residents. “We actually see a reduction in telephone calls because of the Web 2.0 applications,” Pasternak said. “At the same time, our staff are hopping on the phone call and initiating the call back when needed.”

Evolving with VoIP The voice service Wayne Township may be using is VoIP-based, but the town facilities are quite diverse from a building, wiring and infrastructure perspective. Currently, the township maintains four complexes, including the town hall, the Department of Public Works, the Water Pollution Control facility in addition to some remote libraries. All of these complexes are then networked together, and each network has its own PBX, traditional telephones and internal building wiring that have not been migrated to true VoIP handsets. However, it does have a few remote buildings that have VoIP handsets. Each PBX performs IP trunking over its WAN to Town Hall where its primary PBX is located. “Whether you’re at the library, the Water Pollution Control facility or the Department of Public Works, when you pick up 9 for an outside line, you’re getting an IP trunk, which is being routed over our data network over a VoIP VLAN into our town hall infrastructure, routed to our PBX and then our PBX sends it through the metro Ethernet network,” Pasternak said. “That’s how we have consolidated all of our PBXs into a single flat rate coast-to-coast solution.” Such a network configuration means that the township can leverage the existing LAN infrastructure while creating an evolutionary versus a revolutionary process to move to an all VoIP-based network implementation. Still, Pasternak is a big believer in converged IP network. He's confident that since it has laid the foundation, it can make a switch to an end-to-end IP-based solution when it’s ready. “As our rock solid PBX becomes antiquated hopefully much later than sooner, we can minimize the financial impact on our residents, by upgrading those PBXs to IP-oriented solutions,” he said. “This means that the true cost savings of my industrystandard philosophy of consolidation and convergence can be realized by the township.”

To top