Ten days after terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York wiped out telecommunication services in parts of lower Manhattan, major telecom carriers reported swift and steady progress in restoring the damaged infrastructure.
Verizon Communications spokesman Mark Marchand said Friday that the carrier was "working around the clock" to restore service, and expects that many customers will be back up by Wednesday or Thursday of next week.
Still, "there are cables buried under tons of rubble ... We still don't know the full extent of the damage," Marchand said.
Verizon's switching office at 140 West St. in Manhattan, adjacent to the World Trade Center, was seriously damaged when the Twin Towers collapsed after two hijacked planes plowed into the buildings September 11.
Although Marchand said three out of four of the switches in that West St. facility had been restored, and were operating on backup power since general power is still out in the area, the major issues are with the cables, many of which are still shrouded with rubble.
"We are working on a case-by-case basis," Marchand said."We are even running some cables above ground, to bypass damaged areas, and connecting them to cables that we know are not damaged."
Following last week's attack, Verizon began restoring service in phases, beginning with emergency services, such as police, fire departments and hospitals. The carrier then focused its efforts on getting the New York Stock Exchange up and running, and now it is attending to its West St. facility customers.
Meanwhile, AT&T, which competes with Verizon through its AT&T Local Network Services subsidiary, has restored most of its key services, said spokesman Dave Johnson Friday.
"Our goal was to supply all of our major business customers with sufficient voice and data services by Monday, and we did that," Johnson said. The spokesman noted, however, that some more minor services, such as voice mail, had yet to be restored.
AT&T lost fiber-optic equipment that resided in the basement of the World Trade Center, and also suffered some damage to switches, located across the street.
"We don't know the full extent of the damage to the fiber-optic cable yet," Johnson said. "(Fiber-optic cables are) pure glass and the impact of those huge buildings falling has to have shattered some of that glass."
Despite the fact that AT&T and Verizon are industry rivals, Johnson said that the two companies have been working together closely to reestablish services and get customers connected.
"From day one we were working hand and glove with Verizon," Johnson said. "Right now there's no such thing as competition in lower Manhattan."
While the major carriers continue their herculean tasks of restoring all services to the areas damaged in the World Trade Center attacks, Internet service provider (ISP) Earthlink reported Friday that its services are now unimpaired.
"We are back to 100 per cent," said Earthlink spokesman Arley Baker.
The ISP had some lost connectivity to two of its 14 lower Manhattan dial-up numbers and one of its broadband points of presence (POPs). However, as of last Friday, traffic on the damaged POP was redirected to another POP. The company has also added five more dial-up numbers to the service area, bringing the total up to 17 -- more than it had before the attacks.
Meanwhile, some Manhattan denizens are still reporting spotty cell phone service. Part of the problem, said Verizon's Marchand, is that cell phone traffic since the attacks has been very high. In fact, Verizon wireless reported that traffic is double its normal volume.
As all fixed-line services are restored, cell phone volume is expected to return to normal levels.
Although telecommunication problems still remain in lower Manhattan, the major carriers expressed wonder at the amount of service that has already been restored in the area in such a short amount of time.
"The square mile around Wall Street is probably the most telecom-intensive square mile in the world, with vast amounts of infrastructure," said Johnson.
And as of Friday, much of that damaged infrastructure was on its way to being restored.