That is the $50,000 question.
On Tuesday, during a continuation of a meeting called Monday to solve the county’s phone issues, the decision was made to have Time Warner install a fiber optic line to handle the county’s digital phone system.
County officials opted to stay with that company, as opposed to switching to AT&T because it could expedite the install — for a $1,000 fee.
The county signed a new contract for $850 per month for the next five years. Time Warner agreed to waive the $40,000 install fee.
For the past couple of months, the phone service at the courthouse has been spotty, but the reason is still up for debate.
The county’s information technology director says that the root of the problem is with Time Warner cable service.
Technicians with IT Pit Crew, brought in by County Attorney Mike Knight, say that it is a problem inherent with the design of the system and the lack of a dedicated fiber optic line.
Commissioners are caught in the middle, trying to make sense of the technological problems facing them.
In a marathon meeting that spanned two days with multiple recesses, the county leaders debated just how to solve the problem.
Knight had cautioned the county of jumping too quickly into major changes.
“We are all aware of the problems,” he said.
“We have not seized on a solution.
“There is a danger on jumping on something just to get a quick fix.
“You need to take time and consider all of the possibilities before you make that quick call.”
Gary Gillett, with Coastal Bend College, was in the audience and asked to give his opinion on the situation.
“The bottom line is we don’t want to point fingers,” he said. “We just want to get things fixed.”
By the meeting Monday afternoon, it was only Time Warner officials who had not been called to the court.
Commissioner Ken Haggard said, “We need to have all the players in the room so we can make a decision because this is going to be a costly decision.”
Craig Oliver, IT director, said that he read the report provided by George Pearson during last week’s meeting.
“The evaluation was premature and inconclusive due to the lack of data from his company,” Oliver said during Monday’s meeting. “There were no tests performed other than phone calls observed being received and phone calls observed being sent.”
Oliver held up a sheet of paper filled with numbers.
“The technical data are what is important here,” he said.
His data showed that Time Warner Cable was still losing packets of data as it traveled across its network to WaveSpeed, which handles the voice-over Internet protocol phone system.
Loss of data means that calls are dropped or words broken up and unintelligible by the other person on the line.
“The information we are seeing is still being dropped before it ever leaves Time Warner’s network,” he said.
“How does that make it WaveSpeed’s problem?” he said. “WaveSpeed has addressed every issue when it was called in, whether it was echoes or a features request.
“The one thing we cannot address and we cannot correct are issues on Time Warner’s side.”
Pearson, he said, never asked for or did this type of testing for their report to the court.
“This is information that they did not ask for,” Oliver said. “They spent all of five minutes in my office.
“They asked me about the switches,” he said. “There was no technical testing for data collection to prove it was another company or service provider. I believe that is irresponsible and reckless.”
Commissioner Carlos Salazar stopped Oliver as he wanted to continue countering arguments made during the last meeting when he was not there.
“Judge, we are here to discuss the issues related to the phones,” Salazar said.
Oliver responded, “These are part of the issue because you made it part of the issue in the newspaper.”
Oliver was on vacation last week when the court met and heard the presentation by IT Pit Crew officials.
It was also during that meeting that the county attorney confirmed that Oliver was affiliated with WaveSpeed.
However, Oliver did fully disclose this to the court, as Knight also said.
Oliver said he never recommended WaveSpeed as the company to handle the county’s telephone service.
However, Salazar said that while he might not have officially recommended WaveSpeed, his words carry weight as the IT director in their decision making.
“You do give recommendations and, guess what, we go by your recommendations,” Salazar said.
As these two leaders debated, albeit heated at times, the packed courtroom sat anxiously waiting — hoping for a solution.
Oliver, later in the meeting, said, “Any decision you make is not going to happen overnight.”
Oliver said that he understood the troubles facing the other employees because of the downed lines.
“I have worked numerous hours at night trying to figure out where the problem lies,” Oliver said. “They have changed out modems. They have changed out lines.”
Time Warner crews replaced one of the modems on Monday and it was noted that the problem went away. This isn’t the first time that has happened. Oliver said, the real test will be if it holds up for longer than three days.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 343-5221, or at editor@mySouTex.com.