Access Board

Stop Using Obsolete '800' Numbers

Improve Productivity and Morale and Save Money by adopting government wide (and contractors too) Cheap and easy alternatives to cumbersome and expensive 800 (866, 877 etc) phone numbers. At the U.S. Department of Energy, we have a simple and elegant way to teleconference. Our 'Meet-me' phone service just sets up a phone number and we all call it at the same time—how easy is that? In an era where more and more people are using cheap internet based long distance like Skype, or cell phones that charge whether you’re 800 or not, or have phone service with unlimited long distance, 800 numbers are unnecessary. In addition, they pose an information burden on participants

Advantages: Productivity Enhancements: include avoiding annoying and time consuming voicemail or other ‘moderator’ avoiding need to type in lengthy confirmation code (REALLY tough if you’re calling on your Blackberry). When I am on-site I only have to type in a 5 digit phone number since our meet me calls are set up on our internal exchange. I can keep that number in my head so I can dial right in as I’m walking my boss to the elevator. In these days fewer and fewer federal workers doing more and more—it’s a treat to be able to just dial 5 digits rather than 9-1-8**-** etc voicemail plus code etc. Cost Savings: I’ve been too busy remembering 27 digits per conference call to do a cost savings estimate—It’s clear that if we would save money if we are switching from a really premium teleconference service with human beings to the Meet Me system. Even if it doesn’t save any money (highly unlikely) it should be done because the government should be a leader in information technology and stop annoying its employees and contractors.

Disadvantages: Even though government telecons rarely involve persons for whom a long distance call would be a significant cost, in cases where they do, this reform should provide for exceptions. Initially, however, the default should and must be to require feds and contractors to use a simple meet me type system. For now, classified applications would probably not be able to use meet me systems—but I’m sure there are ways for them to improve too.

Implementation: At DOE, initial implementation could begin immediately with just an email from the Secretary reminding employees to use the Meet Me system whenever possible. Contractors currently need a Fed to use the meet me system, but this is usually the case anyway. To extend this service to contractor calls on DOE related business not involving feds, our financial folks would need to analyze the benefits of disallowing 800 number charges by contractors verses the cost of possibly staffing up (and perhaps providing more hardware) to the DOE system. Phase II of the reform would mandate such an analysis with a DEADLINE.

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Idea No. 17114