US ATTACK: Verizon details telecom damage

On the day after the disastrous attacks on the World Trade Center, Verizon Communcations Inc. reported call volumes twice their normal load and scurried to restore service to major enterprises, including the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

After first assuring reporters that emergency services personnel had adequate services, Verizon officials then detailed the toll terrorist attacks had taken on New York's telecom infrastructure.

"This was one of the most telecom-intensive areas of the world," said Larry Babbio, New York-based Verizon's vice chair and president.

Two Verizon offices situated near the World Trade Center (WTC) took heavy blows -- one as WTC's "Building 7" toppled and beams speared a Verizon nerve center, said Babbio.

"From that office, about 200,000 lines were served, and the equivalent of about three million private lines or circuits that go through that office," Babbio said.

Much of the Verizon equipment at the company's 140 West St. address -- the center nearest WTC -- is contained in a five-level basement badly damaged with water and soot.

"In layman's terms, if you cover your computer with dirt and pour water on it, it is not going to operate for very long," said Babbio for emphasis.

"The work we have to do to that office is enormous," he continued. "And that office along with our facility on Broad St. deliver primary service to the New York Stock Exchange."

Babbio estimated that 80 percent of NYSE telecom services are fed by the lesser-damaged Broad St., although 20 percent of the private line services came through the crippled West St. facility.

Babbio said that services to the damaged Pentagon remain operational, but the building is still smoldering. Continued fire and smoke damage could affect services.

On the wireless front, Verizon reported that it had experienced call volume 50 to 100 percent above normal and had put in seven replacement cell sites. One Verizon cell site affixed to WTC to serve the building was destroyed.

Babbio expressed relief that almost all 500 Verizon employees working in WTC had been accounted for.

But he emotionally described calls from "three or four" technicians from affiliated company Genuity who had placed calls from atop the WTC. Those employees had been working on floors above the crash site.

Babbio described limited impact on data traffic streaming through the networks and said that DSL (digital subscriber line) had been effected mostly in the company's ability to provision new services in the wake of the disaster.

Immediately following the attacks on Tuesday, AT&T Wireless reported losing access to some network sites based near or at the Manhattan office complex Tuesday. AT&T, AT&T Wireless, and Sprint said an inundation of calls was taxing their networks, although calls still were going through.

To assist with recovery efforts, AT&T Wireless has deployed 1,300 wireless phones to federal and local law enforcement and rescue organizations such as the Red Cross, Federal Aviation Administration, airlines, and FBI to assist in immediate communications needs.

The loss of some network equipment that was housed at the World Trade Center has forced Sprint to reroute some calls to other facilities.

Sprint sustained damage to its wireline system because of the equipment loss, according to the company.

"We had some network equipment in one of the twin towers and, obviously, it was destroyed," said Mark Bonavia, spokesman for Sprint, in Kansas City, Missouri.

The damage forced the carrier to reroute calls to other facilities, and has caused some call "blockages" in which callers were receiving fast busy signals, Bonavia said.

Basking Ridge, New Jersey-based AT&T said in a statement it had suffered no damage to long-distance networks as a result of the terrorist attacks.

Instead, AT&T attributed disruptions to high call volumes and suggested calls not be placed to New York or Washington.

AT&T Wireless reported experiencing one of its heaviest call volume days ever, but the network is functioning overall. The company did have a small handful of sites down in Manhattan that were in or nearby the Trade Center.

Additionally, the company is requesting that customers and employees avoid making nonessential calls into and out of critical areas on the East Coast so that more circuits are available for emergency use.

"We're asking customers and employees to try to refrain from using their wireless [phones] unless it's urgent," said AT&T Wireless spokeswoman Danielle Perry, in Paramus, New Jersey.

To further improve coverage in the city, AT&T Wireless is rerouting traffic and redirecting some of its antennas. For example, the company is deploying "COWS," or Cells On Wheels (essentially cell towers that are mobile and can be moved from place to place for such an emergency), in Jersey City and Brooklyn (east and west of Manhattan) to help improve call capacity.

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