Diesel Generators Still Powering Lower Manhattan Telecom

Unless commercial power is restored to Verizon's Broad Street central office, communications in lower Manhattan remain at risk.

Verizon Communications is maintaining connectivity at the telephone switching station that supports 80 percent of lines going into the New York Stock Exchange and co-chairman Ivan Seidenberg has pledged to have telephone services to exchanges trading floor on Monday.

But unless commercial power is restored to the Broad Street central office, communications in lower Manhattan remain at risk.

At a Friday press conference Seidenberg told reporters that the key telephone switching station on the Broad Street remains functional, but its operating on back-up diesel generators.

"Its running on our own power, we have no commercial power," he said.

The Broad Street CO has had power problems since commercial electric service had to be switched off Tuesday night. The fact that it remains on backup power will be a problem if Con Edison doesnt restore power over the weekend as expected.

Another telecommunications exchange, the Telehouse International Corp. of America facility at 25 Broadway, went down last night as a result of a backup generator overheating. The second line of defense against power outages - banks of batteries - typically provide only 10 minutes of running time to large communications installations.

The exchange was expected to resume operations tonight running on a portable generator loaned by Con Edison.

One reason many generators are expected to have trouble running in lower Manhattan right now is the amount of dust and soot in the air, which experts say limits a generators useful life.

"For a generator to work it needs fresh air to combust with the fuel, so if theres soot, it will clog up the air intake and the filters, and cause some major problems," said Dan Navarra, Comdiscos director of facility implementations.

Also, backup generators typically are designed to run for short periods of time as opposed to full-time diesel generators, which are designed for continuous operation. Telecom carriers almost never deploy die-hard generators since an investment in one of those machines makes it difficult to make money selling communications services.

Over the weekend Verizon is expected to develop a contingency plan in case the Broad Street central office goes down. Seidenberg said the company has already moved 24 OC-48 (2.5-gigabit-per-second) circuits to accommodate rerouting schemes.

The central office at 140 West St., which supplies the remaining 20 percent of the lines running to the NYSE building, will not be operational for some time. It is out of power, buried in debris, and partially flooded. The switching board for backup power is underwater, and the 10-story buildings walls have sustained six to eight breaches. Verizon engineers have deemed the building, which is adjacent to where 7 World Trade Center once stood, structurally sound.

"Over the last 24 hours weve had about 75 to 100 people literally cleaning the building ... the dirt, the dust, debris, its just phenomenal inside," said Larry Babbio, Verizon vice chairman and president of telecom. "If you were there, and I have been inside twice, you would ask yourself Why is it still standing?"