Phone hub security sought

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10/13/2001 - Updated 02:23 PM ET Phone hub security sought

By Andrew Backover, USA TODAY

NEW YORK Saying terrorist attacks against telecommunications hubs could shut down banks, broadcasters and financial markets, Verizon Communications wants tougher security in phone-equipment buildings. "If you really want to create panic, take down the telecommunications facilities," says Larry Babbio, vice chairman of Verizon, the USA's No. 1 local phone company. Verizon has told Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell of its concerns. And the FCC, which regulates the issue, is encouraging companies to come forward with proposals, it says. Babbio raised the issue Thursday, while touring one 32-story telecom hub, which was severely damaged in the World Trade Center attacks. It is one of the USA's most critical communications facilities.

Since Sept. 11, Verizon has been scrambling to restore service for customers served by the office.

That includes 300,000 voice lines, including a large number of Wall Street firms. It also has 4.4 million data circuits, which are used by banks, for instance, to transmit financial information. Broadcasters use them for links between studios and transmitters.

The nation's four regional Bell companies have thousands of such sites nationwide. While Verizon says dozens of buildings in major cities would need to be damaged to create a communications meltdown, terrorism prompts new security concerns.

"We do have all sorts of people who put things in our buildings," Babbio says.

Many smaller phone firms use these hubs because they want to be close to Verizon's lines, which federal law says they can use to reach customers.

Verizon issues identification badges to those companies' workers, which allows them into parts of the building. Federal rules say Verizon cannot subject those employees to greater scrutiny than its own workers.

John Windhausen of the Association for Local Telecommunications Services says the hubs need better protection. But he would oppose any move that puts onerous rules on Bell rivals only.

"We're not the security threat," says Jason Oxman, assistant general counsel of Covad Communications, a seller of high-speed Internet service. "Our concern is they may be focusing their energies in the wrong direction."

http://www.usatoday.com/life/cyber/tech/2001/10/12/phone-hub-security.htm#more

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), October 13, 2001


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