Paying the bills

Agency officials should carefully examine their bills for wireless services, according to some experts. Some companies' primary business is helping large organizations detect and avoid overbilling.

Control Point Solutions Inc. is one such firm. Its associate vice president of business development, Jason Koenigsberg, said federal officials often do not understand billing for wireless data.

"When it comes to Wi-Fi, it tends to be managed outside of the centralized people who manage [an agency's] traditional voice billing," he said. "They're in a frenzy trying to figure out how to centralize this."

"When you talk about things like cell phones, it's easy to talk about minutes and being billed by the number of minutes," said Joe Basili, Control Point's vice president of marketing. "When you talk about Wi-Fi, you're being billed based on the amount of data being transmitted," a less familiar measure.

Carriers also can be at fault, said Larry Treas, president and owner of the Michael Group. Agency officials might negotiate a discount based on the number of users on a contract, but if the carrier doesn't apply the discount, it can go undetected, he said.

"No one seems to be tracking that," he said.

Treas encourages officials at large organizations to negotiate for more than discounts in contracts, he said. Terms such as how much time officials have to dispute a bill or how quickly the company has to replace a downed cellular tower can be negotiated, if the buyer is big enough.

— Michael Hardy

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