Get a telecom Winston Wolf

If you are paying anywhere close to list price for telecommunications equipment and services, you are paying too much. You need to find a Winston Wolf, the "problem-solver" from Pulp Fiction, to help clean up the mess. With the right guy, you have the potential to reduce parts of your phone bill by 40 to 60 percent and save beaucoup money on buying new gear.

And what would this telecom Mr. Wolf look like? Someone who has been in the telecommunications industry for a couple of decades, preferably working for Verizon when it was called Bell Atlantic or NYNEX, has worked on/implemented large enterprise networks, and knows where the "bodies" are buried. 

By "bodies," I mean knowing the pricing practices of both service providers and suppliers, how to play off one service provider against another to get the best competitive pricing, and the deals that have been cut. With due respect to your IT guy or your 3-5 year phone dude running the PBX and processing the monthly long-distance bills, he just doesn't know these things.  

It's not his or her fault, mind you; learning and understanding the esoteric ways of tariffs and institutionalized practices of the phone companies literally takes years of exposure. It's not something that can be picked up overnight and there is no "For Dummies" book out on the subject.

Let me give you two examples of how knowing the right guy can save you money. I recently sat down with a "Mr. Wolf" in D.C. to catch up and talk shop. We started talking about various projects in the Washington area and during the conversation he reminded me that Fairfax County (VA) had negotiated governmental discounts of up to 60 percent on its IP PBX purchases, which is useful to know since he was consulting for an intergovernmental agency that could take advantage of the same pricing (I suspect there's at least one sales rep which really hates the Fairfax County VA telecom guys).

During lunch, the talk turned to railroads and rights-of-way. What does this have to do with phone bills? Amtrak has train tracks running from Washington D.C., all the way up to New York City, with convenient stops in Baltimore, Wilmington, Del., Philadelphia, and Trenton, N.J. It also has wholesale fiber running along the same route. 

If you knew the right guy at Amtrak to call in the '90s, you could have secured dark fiber on one of the most populous routes in the country, then turned around and flipped it at a substantial markup to a carrier that didn't have a clue, but needed the capacity. And if you knew the "other" right guy to buy and plug in the gear, you could quickly turn up six cities worth of Internet and phone services at a cost of 10 percent of what it would have taken to at list price.

Net-net: The moral to the story is that enterprises and even many smaller service providers can benefit by hiring a Winston Wolf to find creative ways to work the system and know where the "bodies" are buried, with savings paying for his salary/fees multi-fold.

- Doug

P.S. - If you've got a good Wolf story, I'd love to hear it.