Carriers Race to Reconnect Stock Exchange

Thousands of workers struggle to restart America's engine of commerce.

Telephone carriers today continued a struggle to reconnect southern Manhattan in preparation for the planned reopening of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday.

Verizon Communications, the incumbent carrier for New York, had about 100 people working feverishly in the 140 West S. Central office that feeds lower Manhattan. Talking to reporters today, Verizon president and co-CEO Ivan Seidenberg said that number will probably grow to between 300 and 500 over the weekend.

The job facing those workers is formidable. The central office, which had two feet of office in it yesterday, remains flooded. Although none of the carriers Class 5 switches in the office are flooded, some power equipment feeding them is, Seidenberg said.

The building itself, miraculously, survived almost intact, although it was penetrated by falling steel in numerous places. It was next door to 7 World Trade Center, a smaller building that was destroyed.

"There is about 5 stories of steel and debris laying against the back wall of the West street building," said Vice Chairman Larry Babbio, president of Verizons telecom group.

Many more Verizon workers were fanned out across lower Manhattan at field locations, trying to reconnect companies and homes and create new connections for trading partners of the stock exchange. All told, Verizon has about 2,000 workers on the job in the stricken area.

Babbio said there are numerous question marks, including power outages and the uncertain status of underground equipment and cabling, but that Verizon hoped to be able to re-establish connectivity to most of the business area Sunday night in preparation for a Monday opening.

"Im not naive enough to think its going to be a perfect situation, but I think its going to be damn good," Babbio said.

Seidenberg said that the company is frantically testing equipment, and the weekend will tell the tale as circuits to the exchange and brokerage houses are tested. "Each hour that goes by that we hear no news, my training tells me that, in this case, no news is good news," he said.

The carrier now has 6 employees missing, and feared dead, in the complex. Seidenberg and other Verizon execs watched the destruction firsthand.

"Most of the people in our building, including Larry and myself, watched almost every second of this thing occur," Seidenberg said. "That has an enormous effect on our resolve."

Today, Sprint Communications reported outages in New York and Connecticut as the result of power fluctuations to a south Manhattan switching facility that supports Sprints networks. The fluctuations began about 2:30 a.m., and affected voice and data customers. The carrier is working to resolve the problem.