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The politics of telecomm: bringing candidates to voters.

Campaigning for president may not be easy, but with a little technology, it can at least be interesting As candidates count down to November, convention telecomm coordinators hope to keep communication lines clean, even if everyone else is slinging mud.

The Democrats meet at Madison Square Garden, July 13-16, and the Republicans gather at the Astrodome in Houston, Aug. 17-20. To accommodate the deluge of supporters, journalists, politicians, security personnel and the like, special provisions for telecomm have been made.

Bill Murphy, convention coordinator at New York Telephone, plans to use a 30-foot trailer as a hub in Madison Square Garden's Routunda area. The trailer was provisioned while other activities were taking place in the Garden. It is equipped to handle the 6,000 fiber-optic lines being set up for the DNC.

"The beauty of it is that the trailer can be wheeled in and wheeled out," says Murphy. "Nothing needs to be disassembled."

The trailer is equipped with battery back-up, and New York Telephone will provide generators and local loop diversity to offset problems in the event of an emergency. An additional contingency plan has been made with AT&T to provide customers with a special number to call should problems occur.

New York Telephone will run fiber-optic lines between the Garden and several surrounding locations, including the DNC headquarters and press headquarters at the Ramada.

About 4,500 lines will be provisioned for both voice and data. Murphy says they will need only seven broadcast-quality lines. AT&T was chosen as the inside wire vendor to wire the Garden and provide cabling.

The Republicans have it a little easier because a fiber loop is already in place around the city of Houston. According to Erin O'Brien, director of news media operations for the Republican National Committee, an additional fiber link between the Astrodome and the Astrohall was added for the convention.

Southwestern Bell, AT&T and MCI are providing telecom links. Lines were not specifically dedicated for broadcast images because the RNC has an in-house television network, called the RNC Network. It is set up on a satellite and provides images that can be pulled down by any news organization.

1-800-POLITICS

During the primaries, both Ross Perot and Jerry Brown gave politics a new twist when they began to advertise 800 services. Perot says he wants to expand the concept by creating a nationwide phone-response network if elected.

Steve Giunta, who directs telecomm operations for the Perot Petition Committee, says they chose Northern Telecom's SL1-XT ACD to handle call volume shortly after the now-famous Perot appearance on the Larry King Live show.

After several more television appearances and a significant increase in call volume, Perot's group had their MCI 800 service route all calls to a voice response unit (VRU) with menuing capabilities. The menu options take care of most caller requests, but callers are referred to local ACD numbers if they want to speak to an agent.

On May 29, the Perot Committee addressed simultaneous petition drive parties in five capital cities from Orlando, Fla. The broadcast included one-way video and two-way audio interaction with volunteer workers.

At Jerry Brown's 800 service, calls are answered only by live agents. Jan Krejewski and Ray Grande of Compu-Call, the service agent, say they have about 155 lines and 55 agents working 24 hours a day. Compu-Call often handles telephone fund-raising for operations such as public broadcasting stations.

Both Grande and Krejewski argue that working with live agents is more effective and produces more results than VRUs for this type of work. "If the political race is close, our actions can and did affect the results," says Krejewski.

Grande explained that Compu-Call developed software that tallies and categorizes calls. Records can be generated based on call frequency, operator activity, refusals, drops, redials, busy signals and more. Calls can be programmed to redial every 15 to 20 minutes.

When a caller makes a pledge, the operator sends the information through the system. A printout of a pledge card is immediately made and sent to the caller. A total of $6.7 million dollars has been pledged and a 60% fulfillment rate realized.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Politics of Telecomm; uses of technology in 1992 presidential campaigns
Author:Johnson, Kay
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:Column
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Words:691
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