Optical/IP Networks

Companies Take Action After Attacks

Networking companies with offices and equipment in New York City and Washington, D.C., are struggling to cope with the aftermath of today's terrorist attacks on those cities.

"We view the safety of our employees as paramount to Nortel Networks and are taking the appropriate measures," said David Chamberlin, a spokesperson for Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT).

"We have currently closed our New York and Washington, D.C., facilities and are making every effort to ensure that employees in these locations are being taken care of," Chamberlin said. "We have no further information at this time. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by this situation."

Others are doing the same. "Basically, like a lot of other companies, we're trying to identify the whereabouts of all employees and then doing what we can to try and support customers," says Rob Clark, a spokesperson for ADC Telecommunications Inc. (Nasdaq: ADCT).

Similar comments came from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), where a spokesperson says the company is trying to assist employees unable to get home due to the shutdown of U.S. airports. Also, the company has sent other workers home to take care of children let out of school. "We're also trying to reach out to our customers," he notes.

Other companies say they're also trying to lend a hand to customers whose networks were destroyed or damaged in the disasters. "We're focusing on two things," says Brian Murphy, a spokesperson for Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA). "First is the safety and well being of our employees. Second, we're doing everything we can to help customers in the affected areas."

Murphy says Alcatel's dispatched rapid response teams with truckloads of equipment to help set up temporary services and start repairs.

First-hand experience indicates phone outages are widespread in the affected areas. Several messages on the mailing list of the North American Network Operators' Group (NANOG) indicate that Internet communications have been largely stable, while many voice and data links are down.

One NANOG poster said Internet traffic patterns have been relatively unaffected because many service providers had reduced any reliance on the World Trade Center as a hub after the bombing there in 1993. The Pentagon isn't a public communications hub.

Indeed, as evidenced by numerous frantic email messages from those seeking missing persons on many mailing lists today, the Internet has been a primary medium of communication into and out of New York City or Washington during the crisis.

Voice and dedicated data connections appear to have fared worse, but gauging the extent of the damage is tough. None of the carriers involved could be reached directly for comment at press time, but several had issued statements in press releases or on Web sites.

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON), for instance, which reportedly had facilities in the World Trade Center, says its network is fully operational, although volumes are high: "Sprint's long distance wireline and PCS mobile networks are operational in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC," the carrier's statement reads. "However, due to the enormous volume of calls, many customers are experiencing problems in getting calls through... Because our networks are being used by a number of emergency services working in the affected areas, we ask that customers not place calls, especially to those two cities, unless they are absolutely necessary... Outgoing calls from New York and Washington are getting through."

BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS), for instance, says it has tightened security in all locations for its employees, and has this to say otherwise: "We have experience in handling extremely high call volumes and our network is functioning properly. Immediately following the tragedies, call volumes increased as much as three times in some areas. Those calls were primarily cell and toll calls. Call volume has since leveled off and is currently within normal range."

WorldCom Inc. (Nasdaq: WCOM) posted the following message on its Web site: "Our network is secure and we are working under routine emergency operations to ensure our network continues to deliver service. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and provide additional updates as appropriate."

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) told Reuters news service it had a network switching center, which routes telephone calls, on the tenth floor of one of the collapsed World Trade Center towers. The switching center served about 40,000 telephone lines, which were mostly in that building.

"The network is operating fine, with the exception of heavy, heavy volume," Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe told Reuters.

Verizon Wireless also told Reuters that it had a network antenna at the World Trade Center, but the network did not suffer any service outages.

Like the other carriers involved, SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC) says it has upped security, is coping with higher call volumes, and plans to keep all lines up and running. "We are also cooperating as part of a larger effort to ensure that our link within the national communications system is sound, and that communications nationwide are kept open," the carrier said in a statement.

Some sources indicate that network repairs may have to be approved by the U.S. government's National Command Authority, which reserves the right to keep domestic telecom services at its disposal during times of crisis and to pre-empt circuits that may be required to establish emergency services.

One poster claims WorldCom told him that over 100 DS3 (45 Mbit/s) connections had been destroyed in New York alone. The poster writes: "Furthermore they are under government control and will be directed in what to drop or leave up."

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, and Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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