City of Toronto to move away from traditional phone lines?

City Ponders Switching to VOIP


I am about to move in a few weeks, and I am thinking of leaving the good ole' Bell telephone service behind. Like more and more Torontonians, I am about to ditch the standard phone line for the VoIP technology - the Voice over IP protocol that turns your phone conversation into digital data and transmits it via an Internet connection. The main incentive for the switch is to slash your phone bill - VoIP services are typically considerably cheaper than your standard phone line, and often include many perks such as free call display, voice mail, and other features, as well as low long-distance calling rates.

Well, apparently it's not just us ordinary folks who are eager to embrace new money-saving technologies. The City of Toronto's 5-year $60-million contract with Bell Canada is coming to an end in 2008, and some of the councillors think it will be smart to not extend it into 2009 and 2010. The government management committee is considering the proposal to retender the contract and to save up to $1.7 mln a year by going digital with a VoIP phone company.

Granted, there are some potential problems with the proposed switch. For one, as the chair of the committee Gloria Lindsay Luby notes, such a big switch is a technically complicated task, and might not go over smoothly in the time left before the Bell contract expires. Also, as a relatively new technology, VoIP still has a number of glitches, and is still considered less reliable than the traditional phone systems that have been perfected for decades. However, the system has made huge improvements since its inception, and the City of Mississauga staff, who have been using it for the last five years, claim it has been a problem-free solution.

At the moment the committee is examining whether or not it would be wise to retender the contract, or at least to limit the length of the extension. I hope they give VoIP a go. Given Mississauga's positive experience, and the money-saving potential of the new system, I see no reasons not to try it. As a taxpayer, I believe that the City should very seriously consider every opportunity to make up the budget deficit without diving deeper and deeper into our pockets. And as a consumer, I am very happy to see healthy competition in a market that has traditionally been dominated by a monopolistic giant.

Photo: "Ring-A-Ling" by blogTO Flickr pooler ~EvidencE~


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