N.Y. financial area's labyrinth of cables damaged in attack

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N.Y. financial area's labyrinth of cables damaged in attack Friday, September 14, 2001


NEW YORK -- The carnage that devastated Manhattan's financial district also hobbled the lifeline of commerce that runs below its streets: a labyrinth of cables ferrying data in and out of the city.

For trading to resume Monday, telecommunications companies are rerouting data and laying new cable around the battered area and powering the transmissions, in some cases, with diesel generators.

"That's the most telecommunications-intensive square mile in the world," Verizon Communications spokesman Jim Smith said. "Our customers are desperate, scared and hopeful that we're moving along. All we can do is ask for their patience as we find out what's going on."

No carrier expressed complete confidence that the infrastructure would be ready when trading kicks off Monday.

"We won't know what the damage is until we try to light up our customers," said Peter Thonis, also a Verizon spokesman. "We're doing that one by one by one."

The problems are immense.

In Verizon's switching building at 140 West St. -- which controls 40 percent of lower Manhattan's telephone lines and 20 percent of those used by the New York Stock Exchange -- girders from a crumbling skyscraper plunged through its brick walls, smashing computer equipment and allowing a half-inch layer of dust to filter inside, Smith said.

The carrier was pumping water yesterday from four of the building's five subbasements, where massive backbone cables are divided into smaller lines that snake underneath neighborhood streets. Smith said the soaked cables and switches needed to be dried out, then tested.

Outside, some underground lines can't be tested or fixed, Smith said, because "we have manholes covered with tons of rubble."

Verizon, missing 10 workers in the disaster, has 14,000 employees on the job in New York, Thonis said.

Some of WorldCom's switching stations in the district received only intermittent electric service yesterday and operated instead on diesel generators, WorldCom spokeswoman Linda Laughlin said.

Since acquiring Internet service provider UUNET Technologies, WorldCom has become one of the largest digital data carriers serving the district.

Besides the telecoms, local contractors such as Hugh O'Kane Datacom were threading new cable under the street, bypassing the damaged local loops of fiber running under or near the World Trade Center.

"Some of these loops have been knocked out," company President Hugh O'Kane said. "You have to cut off the part of the network that goes through the damaged area and reconnect it to a usable network."

Laughlin said WorldCom was working around the damage by programming its switches and routers to send data through alternate circuits that skirt the broken lines. The markets planned a full test of communications and other market infrastructure systems tomorrow.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), September 14, 2001

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