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Verizon: Reconnecting

By Dennis Mendyk  |  Posted 2003-09-10 Print this article Print

The telecom company's cables were crushed and submerged in water after 7 World Trade Center crashed.

Verizon's phone cables were crushed and submerged in water after 7 World Trade Center crashed. Finally, its rehabilitation work is just about complete.

By the end of this year, more than 1,000 customer-service staffers at Verizon Communications in New York City will face one of the toughest mornings of their lives.

They'll return to work for the first time to 140 West St., the building that stands across the street from where the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell on Sept. 11, 2001. The building may still be erect, but it has taken two years to make it habitable after sustaining severe damage from the towers' collapse—a catastrophic event that took out a vital nerve center in Verizon's network in Lower Manhattan.

That 140 West remained structurally intact is testament to its bunker-like construction. Its next-door neighbor, 7 World Trade Center, fell right against it. Steel beams crashed through an underground vault that held all of the wiring at 140 West, virtually destroying the building's links to Verizon's network. Cables were crushed or submerged in floodwaters. Verizon executives and workers had to wear moon-suits to enter the building.

"Words can't describe what was going on," Paul LaCouture, Verizon's Network Services Group president, would say nine months later.

Today, Verizon continues to retool its network in Lower Manhattan. While the physical restoration of switches, underground cables and other network equipment at 140 West was finished more than a year ago, Verizon still has some 600 technicians working on what it calls "de-hubbing"—off-loading some of the network traffic handled at 140 West to other switching offices in Manhattan. That work is expected to be finished sometime next year.

Verizon also is shoring up facilities across its network, which spans about 1.5 million square miles and includes parts or all of 29 states, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The overarching goal is to minimize the kind of disruption that occurred in Lower Manhattan, when service to some 4.4 million voice and data lines was cut off for days, weeks and, in some cases, months.

With one exception, Verizon's network passed an unscheduled stress test on Aug. 14, when a major power failure knocked out electrical service to New York City and a large chunk of the Eastern seaboard for more than a day. Emergency generators kicked in, and wire-line phone service continued uninterrupted for Verizon's local customers. The only glitch: The failure of a Verizon backup diesel generator in Brooklyn forced New York City emergency vehicles to use battery backup devices to handle 911 calls. The blackout reinforced key lessons learned from Sept. 11.


Dennis Mendyk comes to The Net Economy from Interactive Week, where he served as Telecommunications Editor since July 1998. He was a founding editor of tele.com and has covered the communications and computing industries as an editor and writer since 1984. Mendyk is a past recipient of the Jesse H. Neal Award for editorial excellence.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from New York University and a Master of Arts degree in History from the University of Connecticut.

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