A heightened sense of security, physical damage to the telecommunications infrastructure and conflicting information flowing out of New York together are making the task of running communications networks tough.
Afraid to lose any more lives to either acts of terror or accidents, both New York authorities and private companies prefer to err on the side of caution, evacuating buildings at any sign of threat. Shortly after jets flew into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon Tuesday morning, Exodus Communications switched into remote-management mode and evacuated most of its data centers in New York and New Jersey, and around Washington D.C. Earlier today, Genuity evacuated workers from 60 Hudson St., which houses a key network exchange in lower Manhattan about 10 blocks from the site where the World Trade Center stood.
Genuity spokesman John Vincenzo said the company received word late last night that the building was on the verge of collapse. "We were finally able to confirm that 60 Hudson St. is fine. Then we updated customers, saying, False alarm. "
False alarms sound real to many carriers and their customers because the damage to telecommunications infrastructure in New York is very real. Genuity itself lost a point of presence in the World Trade Center, and while it was able to reroute a lot of its traffic, the circuits that were connected to the POP in the tower are down.
Verizon Communications owns most of the last-mile pipes in the area and, understandably, has sustained the worst damage. Several of its central offices, the telephone substations where phone calls were switched, have been damaged or destroyed. The company said its outages will have a direct impact on telephone connections to the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
At 140 West St., the wall of Verizons CO was breached when building 7 at World Trade Center collapsed. The CO, about five stories below ground, is flooded, covered with debris and without power. A second CO, on Broad St., also is experiencing power problems. Together, the troubled COs provide 100 percent of the telephone lines that run into the NYSE, network operators say.
Verizons trouble is affecting network operators, which are beginning to see their high-speed data lines go down. This is not unusual, even under normal circumstances, but ordinarily these lines would be tested and restarted. Now Verizon is in disaster mode and is not performing these services. So even though many of its COs are functioning fine, network operators reported their services were beginning to be disrupted.
Many of these connectivity problems were caused by the ongoing power outage. Approximately 12,000 customers in lower Manhattan have no electricity, a statement from Con Edison said. The impact is being felt by network exchanges, which switch data traffic between networks.
The exchange most affected - the New York International Internet Exchange - is located at 25 Broadway. Run by Telehouse International Corp. of America, it has been largely unmanned and running on diesel-fueled backup generators since Tuesdays disaster.
"It appears likely that there will be no commercial power before this weekend," Telehouse management told its customers in a letter. "At the present rate of use, we expect our fuel supply to last at least until Friday noon. We have arranged for additional fuel delivery from a supplier BUT need approval for the actual delivery from the police and emergency teams."
Two other main exchanges - at 60 Hudson St. and 111 8th St. - both appear to be on commercial power at the moment. But access to these buildings is limited due to security concerns, so if gear goes bad, there is no one onsite to reboot.
"As of today, we have been restricted from sending any staff to the site. However, we anticipate that changing tomorrow based on news reports that indicate personnel will be permitted into lower Manhattan tomorrow," Telehouse management said.