Extending a Hand

Almost lost in last week's tragic events were the efforts of some Internet, computer and communications companies to help victims and assist various relief efforts.

Almost lost in last weeks tragic events were the efforts of some Internet, computer and communications companies to help victims and assist various relief efforts. We should recognize the many companies — some notable tech giants, as well as some smaller players interested in reaching out — that put people over profits.

Verizon Communications, the New York phone giant, offered free service to make local calls from 4,000 Manhattan curbside pay phones and programmed its pay phones to accept incoming calls. Verizon pay phones dont normally accept incoming calls.

The AT&T Foundation, which makes donations on behalf of all AT&T companies, gave out $10 million worth of long-distance cards to rescue workers in New York and Washington, D.C., and provided free long- distance from all New York City pay phones. It also offered free Internet and e-mail access through its Public Phone 2000i units at many airports.

AT&T Wireless, which was spun off from AT&T in July, said it donated 2,000 cell phones with unlimited service to government and relief workers, and was planning to deliver thousands more as needed.

Prodigy Communications opened an online message center to the general public to help people locate friends and family they might have lost contact with during the attack. The companys National "Im Okay" Message Center was operating through the end of last week at http://okay.prodigy.net.

On the software and services side, United Messaging, an enterprise messaging services company, offered free e-mail services to businesses that had been located in the World Trade Center. Under the plan, the company said it would establish and/or transfer e-mail accounts and domains to help restore corporate services.

Microsoft pledged $5 million in technical and consulting services, and offered volunteer hours and software to the recovery efforts. The company also said it will make an additional $5 million cash donation to a fund established by the United Way of New York City and The New York Community Trust to help agencies such as the American National Red Cross.

Computer Associates International, which is based in the New York suburbs on Long Island, offered to assist World Trade Center businesses, on a pro bono basis, with the restoration of data and computing services. CA also said it would contribute $2 million toward a fund for New York children who have lost a parent as a result of the attack.

And MCSi teamed with PictureTel to give emergency service personnel free use of its videoconferencing facilities.

Granted, these good works were overshadowed by the pure evil of last weeks events. And in no way can they compare with the actions of emergency workers operating in New York and Washington. Yet, in their simple way, these companies showed the positive side of the democratic and, yes, capitalistic society terrorists seem so hell-bent on destroying.