US ATTACK: Verizon and other carriers: Recovering slowly

Verizon Communications Inc. and other telecommunications carriers and ISPs are taking a step-by-step approach to rebuild the infrastructure damaged by last week's terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Verizon has reconnected the bulk of the circuits that were taken down, according to company officials in a Monday afternoon press teleconference. Verizon's switching office in 140 West St. in Manhattan lost power, was flooded and was damaged by debris when the adjacent World Trade Center collapsed last week.

Recovering from the disaster has first been a matter of establishing emergency communications, then getting service to the stock exchanges and the "big five" brokerage houses, followed by service to consumers and small businesses, said Lawrence Babbio, vice chairman and president of Verizon's telecommunications group.

"There have been not that many unpredictable things," Babbio said. "The one thing that we're fighting is to get access to the area ... Over the weekend we evacuated the building two or three times." By Sunday night, however, the company was able to get access to the West Street building's basement, where some of its equipment is located.

Verizon has added cellular telephone capacity in the region hit for emergency workers, and will not charge for pay phone service in affected areas of Manhattan, he said.

Restoring service to the New York Stock Exchange was "an important signal that the U.S. was open for business," said Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon co-chief executive officer. Verizon has restored 14,000 of the approximately 15,000 circuits used by the exchange to conduct trading.

Executives anticipated continued heavy trading volume on the first day the market opened after a four-day hiatus in the wake of the attack. Market volume topped 1.4 billion shares traded by noon, and in late trading the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped over 700 points to below 9,000 -- a drop of over 7 percent on the day.

Verizon officials reiterated their unwillingness to predict how long network services could be completely restored. A bit more than 2 million of the 3.5 million circuits originally routed through the damaged West Street facility can be rerouted, Babbio said. About 90 percent have been rerouted so far.

The remaining circuits connect to businesses that Babbio said "frankly, aren't there anymore."

Though Verizon is the largest incumbent local phone service carrier in New York, it doesn't face the trial of rebuilding service alone.

AT&T Corp. competes with Verizon through its AT&T Local Network Service subsidiary in New York, primarily serving corporations. AT&T Local Network Service lost fiber-optic equipment that was in the basement of the World Trade Center as well as the use of switching equipment in two buildings of the World Financial Center near the twin towers.

One of those World Financial Center buildings was heavily damaged; the other has lost commercial power and building engineers have not been able to start the emergency generator, said Dave Johnson, director of media relations for AT&T Network Services, in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Traffic that would have gone through the damaged switch in the World Financial Center has been directed to existing circuits, and a temporary switch has been brought on line to take over from the other out-of-service switch there.

"We've had technicians working literally around the clock since Tuesday afternoon to restore connectivity to Verizon and to our business customers," Johnson said.

"Lots of businesses that were in the World Trade Center have had to relocate," Johnson added. "Our sales team started very aggressively contacting the (current AT&T) customers to determine where and when they were going to move, and then we started to engineer and re-map circuits to them."

That involved AT&T reallocating network capacity to sites in other boroughs of New York City as well as in New Jersey where customers have relocated. The team was aiming to get the job done by Monday morning's stock market opening.

"Is everything a perfect 100 percent like it was last week? Of course not. But we have moved thousands of circuits and the majority of business customers have enough voice and data service to be operational," Johnson said.

Long-distance services seem to be returning to normal levels as well, with high but stable call volumes in the New York and Washington, D.C. area reported by AT&T. The networks of WorldCom Inc. and Qwest Communications International Inc. were not damaged in the attacks and they continue to operate normally according to representatives of the companies, as does the long-distance network of Sprint Corp., the company said in a statement.

On the Sprint PCS wireless network in New York City, four cells were out of operation but 93 percent of the network was available. The carrier has restored some of the facilities that were damaged in the attack, said Robin Carlson, a spokeswoman for Sprint in Westwood, Kansas. Problems in the local wired network also was preventing some calls from going through, Carlson added. Call volume on Sprint PCS in New York City was three times normal, according to the company statement.

ISP EarthLink Inc., which lost connectivity to some dial-up facilities and one of its two broadband points of presence in New York City, has restored almost all of its capacity in the area, said Steve Dougherty, director of systems vendor management, in Pasadena, California.

"We're very close to 100 percent," Dougherty said Monday.

The Internet peering points MAE (Metropolitan Area Exchange) West in Palo Alto, California, and MAE East in Vienna, Virginia, which are operated by WorldCom, also have operated normally throughout, said Linda Laughlin, a WorldCom spokeswoman in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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