Optical/IP Networks

Service Providers Persevere

As rescue workers attempt to locate survivors in the rubble caused by yesterday's terrorist attacks in New York City, rural Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., carriers are coping as best they can with high traffic volumes, sporadic outages, and equipment that's damaged or inaccessibly located behind security lines.

In a news conference this afternoon, Larry Babbio, vice chairman and president of the telecom group Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), one of the carriers most affected by the attacks, said the company is focused on providing extra circuits and wireless services to emergency, health, and fire workers.

Babbio was overcome with emotion as he explained that four Verizon workers were apparently lost after trying to contact their headquarters from the World Trade Center.

He also indicated that service restoral to lower Manhattan -- which encompasses the private lines that run the New York Stock Exchange -- will be an extremely long and complicated process.

"The area of attack is among the most telecom-intensive areas in the world," he said. South of Manhattan's 14th Street, within the 10- to 15-block radius surrounding what was once the World Trade Center, Verizon has five switching offices and over 500,000 phone lines.

Within this area, nearly 80 percent of the private-line circuits used by the New York Stock Exchange run through or are terminated in Verizon offices at Broad Street. An additional 20 percent of NYSE traffic relies on switches at 140 West Street, immediately adjacent to what was Tower 7 of the World Trade Center.

Babbio said commercial service is sporadic and running on generator power at Broad Street, but that the West Street facility was so badly damaged that services into or out of it won't be available for an indefinite period.

Babbio said service in the Pentagon area is also sporadic, and that in Pennsylvania, Verizon's efforts have mostly been aimed at assisting emergency workers.

He declined to provide any estimates of what the repairs would ultimately cost. "When you consider the magnitude of the situation... we recognize the massive job we have to do to continue to get this network back," he said.

Other carriers say they're also intent on making repairs, but the priorities are clear. "We can't get access to the area [of the World Trade Center], but frankly, the goal right now is to preserve human life, not to worry about repairs," said a spokesperson from AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T).

Internet service providers appear to be making every effort to stay afloat, especially as the Internet has often been the only reliable medium for many seeking information about persons missing or unaccounted for.

Continual reports have appeared on the mailing list of the North American Network Operators' Group (NANOG) about the status of Internet points of presence at telco hotels and other colocation facilities throughout Manhattan.

At least one ISP has facilities operating on diesel generators. When that runs out, there's little hope of keeping the switches running, unless alternate fuel can be obtained.

Some service providers are offering help to peers facing problems like these (see FiberNet Offers Help).

Peter Tierney, COO of Sphera Optical Networks Inc., which has newtork connection points in lower Manhattan, was offering assistance. "We're reaching out to customers and other carriers, telling them we're ready to help out with local connectivity and routing," he says.

Equipment vendors are also waiting to see where they can help out. "We're in the process of preparing to help our customers and government agencies," says Bill Price, a spokesperson for Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU). "We'll take their lead."

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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