Carriers scramble to restore communications

Verizon Communications Inc. officials said Friday they are “hopeful – not necessarily confident, but certainly hopeful” that they will be able to repair their badly damaged facility at 140 West Street in New York in time for today’s planned reopening of U.S. securities exchanges.

The building – located near 7 World Trade Center, which collapsed Tuesday evening – is one of five Verizon switching centres located in the currently closed sections of southern Manhattan. Verizon is New York City’s largest voice and data communications carrier. It is also a critical communications link for the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and for a number of financial services companies and international enterprises with operations in Manhattan.

Verizon’s 31-story West Street office handles 20 per cent of Verizon’s data circuits for the NYSE, said Verizon Co-Chief Executive Officer and President Ivan Seidenberg in a conference call with reporters on Friday afternoon. The other 80 per cent of the NYSE’s Verizon traffic runs through an office on Broad Street located further south, Seidenberg said.

The Broad Street office is running on generators and has been without commercial power since Tuesday’s terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, but suffered no structural damage, according to Verizon officials. The West Street office, however, requires major clean-up and repair work and is still precarious in places.

Five stories of debris from the wreckage of 7 World Trade Center are pressing against the West Street building’s back wall, said Verizon vice-Chairman and president Larry Babbio. There are “major holes in the walls” in “six to eight places,” and the layer of dirt and debris inside “is just phenomenal,” he said. Verizon has about 100 people working around the clock to clean the building and the equipment it contains.

Several major financial markets, including the NYSE and Nasdaq, are scheduled to reopen for trading on Monday. Some 4,000 NYSE trading partners located in southern Manhattan are currently without phone service, Verizon officials estimated; reopening the markets will require restoring connectivity to those firms, many of whom will have to operate from offices outside the affected area.

“I think the outlook is promising,” Babbio said, citing the redundancy built in to Verizon’s network, the relatively good condition of the Broad Street office, and the company’s ongoing efforts to repair or compensate for its damaged facilities. “I’m not na