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  CommServ > Faculty And Staff > News > Cell Phones and Prepaid Calling Cards

Use of Cell Phones and Prepaid Calling Cards by UCSB Departments: FAQ

Original posting: 7/23/03

Communications Services has received inquiries about the use of cell phones and prepaid calling cards at UCSB, and whether they are a realistic option for reducing a department's telephone charges. Following are answers to some of the most common questions.

  1. Would it be "legal" for a department to use cellular phones to replace existing telephone lines on campus? Can we issue cell phones to department members for University business?
  2. Do we have to get cellular phone service from Verizon?
  3. What is Verizon's best plan?
  4. Will Communications Services list a department cell phone in the campus directory? Will the campus operators give out cellular numbers? How about Verizon?
  5. In the case of a call coming in to a department office, can a staff member forward the call to a cell phone's voicemail from an 893 number?
  6. Can I call 911 using my cell phone?
  7. Does cellular service offer Account Codes or Authorization Codes?
  8. Will replacing campus phones with cellular phones save my department money?
  9. Can I get Temporary Disconnection on cellular service?
  10. What else might be different about using cell phones in my department?
  11. Is it appropriate for a department to purchase prepaid calling cards for faculty and staff for long distance calling?

1. Would it be "legal" for a department to use cellular phones to replace existing telephone lines on campus? Can we issue cell phones to department members for University business?

Some departments, especially those who have employees who move around campus a lot as part of their duties, or who have employees who must be reachable at all hours (such as Communications Services, Housing and Residential Services, the Police, or Facilities Management), have used cell phones to augment their usual business lines for years.

There may be some ethical or policy questions about purchasing cell phone service (or prepaid calling cards, for that matter) that would not be used exclusively for University business, or that are issued to staff or faculty who do not have a need to be contacted at all hours of the day or night. Certainly plans that provide a certain amount of free minutes do not provide the type of call accounting that will allow departments to distinguish between personal calls and University business calls.

Departments should consult with Accounting Services & Controls and Audit Services to ensure that their planned use of cell phones is in compliance with all University policies, including the University's Electronic Communications Policy regarding use for incidental personal purposes.

Additionally, the billing for cell phones is accomplished with paper bills. There is no link to the General Ledger as there is with the campus telephone system. Reimbursement to the University for personal calls will/would require the cell phone holder to write a check to the Regents and a staff person to deposit the check to the appropriate ledger account.

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2. Do we have to get cellular phone service from Verizon?

Only one cellular company, Verizon Wireless, has a contract with the campus for cellular telephone service, which was the result of a competitive bid process. Because of the nature of the contract, Business Services states that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to grant an exception for any cell phone service paid for with University funds. In short, service must be obtained from Verizon.

For more information, see UCSB Purchasing Agreements.

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3. What is Verizon's best plan?

Cellular companies change calling plans frequently, and starter deals may lapse into more expensive plans without notification or not be available to cell phones added to the account at a later time. Departments considering purchasing cellular phones for employees should realize that vigilance is required to track the various plans that are available. For more information, see Verizon Cellular Service.

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4. Will Communications Services list a department cell phone in the campus directory? Will the campus operators give out cellular numbers? How about Verizon?

Communications Services receives a data file from the UCSB Directory Service database maintained by Information Systems & Computing each year, which we format and print as the White Pages portion of the printed Campus Directory. The individual listings in IS&C's UCSB Directory database are updated either by the individuals themselves, or by departmental representatives. If individuals list their primary campus phone as a cell phone, that is how their primary phone will be listed in the printed directory, and on IS&C's directory page.

Because UCSB's operators use IS&C's UCSB Directory database to provide information, operators will be able to provide information on any primary number listed in that database. However, Ernestine, the Speech Recognition front end application to UCSB's operators, will not be able to list any non-893 numbers. This is because Ernestine transfers calls once it has correctly identified the requested number, and our policy (due to the potential for hacking and fraud) is to not allow any transfers to non-campus (i.e., non-893) numbers. Similarly, UCSB's operators will not transfer calls to non-campus numbers.

Verizon's 411 Directory Information services will not list cellular numbers.

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5. In the case of a call coming in to a department office, can a staff member forward the call to a cell phone's voicemail from an 893 number?

Most cellular telephones must be turned off for this to work. However, a cellular provider may be able to provide this service on an individual cell phone basis, if requested and at an additional cost.

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6. Can I call 911 using my cell phone?

You can call 911 from a cell phone. However, unlike a call from an 893 campus line, the automatic location features that tell the campus police where a 9-911 call is coming from will not work with cell phones. A 911 call from a cell phone will go directly to the California Highway Patrol, not campus police, and without any location information. The CHP has two dispatch points for the tri-counties, one in Ventura and one in SLO. For Verizon Wireless, the dividing line between dispatch points is El Capitan. If you are connected to the Storke Tower site and dial 911, you are routed to Bakersfield and from there to Ventura.

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7. Does cellular service offer Account Codes or Authorization Codes?

We are not aware of any cellular company that offers either of these services. This means that it would not be possible to attribute toll calls to separate accounts (e.g., Grants) without a laborious manual documentation process. The process would require the caller to review his or her bill and mark the calls with the Grant ID. Then a staff person would tally the calls accordingly, copy entries of the individual calls associated with each Grant, and post the data to the General Ledger. This process is fully automated when using the campus telephone system and Auth Codes.

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8. Will replacing campus phones with cellular phones save my department money?

The cost implications for campus departments are not clear. One would have to study how many on-campus calls are made from departmental cell phones because they might not be free, depending on the cell phone plan acquired. Further, Verizon might not offer the same plans to a department that they offer to individuals. Getting the department to pay the individual telephone bills could generate additional work in other areas.

A large-scale move to cell phones has financial implications for other departments. Currently all calls between campus phones are free. However, if some departments move to cellular phones and others do not, than that will no longer be true. Calls to cell phones from campus 893 numbers would generate a cost to the calling department, and might generate a cost to the called department, depending on the details of the department's calling plan.

A large-scale move to cell phones might cause other serious financial problems for both voice and data funding on campus. The campus just purchased a telephone switch that has at least 7 years of amortization remaining. Further, there is the Data/Networking Surcharge of $6.50 associated with each campus telephone line, which subsidizes the data network. Consequently, such a move would force the campus to adopt a new network-funding model.

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9. Can I get Temporary Disconnection on cellular service?

No, it would be necessary to cancel the service and apply for new service later, probably with a different phone number.

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10. What else might be different about using cell phones in my department?

Despite the issues discussed above, it might be possible to provide cell phones to individual faculty members, for instance, without too much disruption. It is more difficult to imagine the administrative staff of departments replacing the typical multi-line key systems they now use so efficiently. There are over 200 departmental multi-line systems in use at UCSB, and they allow administrative staff to easily put calls on hold, transfer calls to other people in their department or in other departments, talk to other staff members via intercom, conference people in on calls, and generally run their departments in an efficient manner. These types of business functions are typically not available with cell phones.

Additionally, having a departmental cellular service requires that all account management for telephone service be provided by that department. If there is one true statement that can be made about telephone company billing, be it for cellular or regular service, it is that there are always mistakes. Currently, Communications Services reviews telephone company billing and corrects errors amounting to tens of thousands of dollars each year. Departments arranging for their own billing for cellular service must be prepared to take on that review themselves, or risk wasting department funds.

Finally, service quality varies from location to location, both on-campus and in the community, and cellular phones do not always work well within campus buildings.

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11. Is it appropriate for a department to purchase prepaid calling cards for faculty and staff for long distance calling?

Purchasing, Audit Services, and Accounting Services have reviewed this issue. Since most prepaid calling cards do not provide any accounting for the calls made on the card, departments would have no way to distinguish personal versus business use. In addition, departments would need to establish appropriate controls to manage the purchase, inventory, review, and dissemination of the cards. Based on the lack of accountability and the increased workload, Purchasing, Audit Services, and Accounting Services have determined that the acquisition of prepaid calling cards using University funds is not appropriate.

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