Comm Ports in a Storm

Telecommuters in the northeast got a peek at the future last week - and it wasn't pretty.

Telecommuters in the northeast got a peek at the future last week — and it wasnt pretty.

Millions of families kept home by the hype, if not the reality, of the March megastorm found phone and Internet connections clogged in the New York metropolis.

Verizon Communications, which provides local and long-distance phone service in the Northeast, acknowledged its system was overloaded.

Mark Marchand, a Verizon spokesman, said the company anticipated the climb in service as telecommuting surged in front of the storm, and tens of thousands of students, free from school, went surfing on the Net.

"Usually customers were only getting a circuits busy message once, and were then getting through on their second try," he said.

One thing that helped was an increase in Digital Subscriber Line service deployed by Verizon and others. Marchand said the DSL connections arent on the circuit switched network and therefore dont compete with voice and dial-up modems.

Utility commission officials in New York and New Jersey said they saw no significant rise in service complaints as a result of the storm.

Verizon spent $12 billion last year expanding its fiber-optic lines and installing new equipment to handle ever-increasing data demands. The company expects to spend another $12 billion on infrastructure this year.

Telecommunications infrastructure overload has resulted from other recent natural events, such as the Washington state earthquake. Rick Bolin, director of business development and national practice leader of wireless integration at Ciber, said "instant information" about the quake prompted sudden spikes in phone and Internet traffic in and out of Seattle that left circuits there busy.