Telecoms forge ahead with restoration at sites

A week after the Sept. 11 wreckage in New York, some businesses were reportedly without basic phone and data services, but carriers overall seemed to struggle with the physical – not network – damage sustained in the attacks.

“Not every business downtown has phone service or all the lines they want, so there appears to be some rationing going on. But really, you’d expect that,” said Melanie Posey, a New York-based analyst at International Data Corp.

Local phone giant Verizon Communications Inc. in a Tuesday update on its infrastructure said the company has all along consulted a priority list, first restoring service to hospitals, doctors offices, and healthcare facilities.

But Verizon officials said that of the 9,000 to 14,000 businesses in the affected area, many now have had service restored.

“But a lot of these firms we are beginning to get circuits up for have no locations for them,” said Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon co-CEO and president, underscoring what is likely the biggest telecom challenge facing the local area.

Megacarrier WorldCom Inc. reported similarly that its biggest issue thus far has been helping to house workers displaced by the disaster. Meanwhile, Clinton, Miss.-based WorldCom’s services – including Frame Relay and ATM data connections – remained fully operational.

“Some of our large corporate customers did not have offices left or were in offices that had been badly damaged. We looked at our office space and warehouse space in the area to try to offer those affected a cubicle, furniture, and phone lines,” said WorldCom spokeswoman Linda Laughlin.

Along with looking after its residential and corporate customers, Verizon also stressed that the company had worked successfully with CLECs (competitive local exchange carriers) that rely on Verizon infrastructure to provide service.

“We did have collocation in the [hardest hit] facility, and those came out relatively well. They’re clean and they’re usable. We are continuing our dialog with the CLECs through this and have not shown any favoritism regarding them versus our retail customers,” said Larry Babbio, Verizon’s vice-chair and president.

“No one has gotten everything they want, but everyone is pretty much satisfied,” Babbio continued.

Data company Equant NV backed up those claims.

Head of customer service and network, Jack Norris, said Equant had worked closely with Verizon to reestablish its many corporate network connections in the New York area.

“For our customers that had a node off our network on their premises dedicated to them, if they were in the World Trade Center or in the immediate vicinity some of those had gone out,” said Norris in Renton, Va.

In those cases, Equant worked with customers on a case-by-case basis, because almost each customer had varying plans for restoring service, Norris continued.

For instance one New York firm shifted to a disaster recovery site in Brooklyn. Others asked the company to host equipment. Corporations also used data services to “supplant” voice calls, said Norris.

“For instance in our own customer service centres, where we might have had difficulty getting through, we used instant messenger. That is, where communication had normally been done by voice calls, there was more effort to use data to move information,” Norris observed.

But some carriers came away from the crisis calling attention to a corporation’s need for diverse connectivity.

For instance, New York-based IntelliSpace Inc. offers its customers multiple points of presence connected by a 10Gb ring and a minimum of two links to a customer.

Company officials claim IntelliSpace has been able to weather its recent shift in demand by rerouting traffic. “We knew we needed a different architecture,” said Jeff Alan, IntelliSpace CEO.

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