AT&T: WorldComs Not All That

Disputing WorldCom's claim to carry more than half the Internet's total traffic, AT&T says industry could easily absorb WorldCom's traffic.

Disputing the Internet traffic share figures that WorldCom Inc. has been trumpeting since its troubles erupted earlier this summer, AT&T Corp. is claiming that it handles just as much Internet traffic in the United States as its beleaguered long distance comrade, and that it is capable of absorbing all of WorldComs Internet backbone business if the bankrupt carriers network were to go dark.

Since WorldCom began to discuss publicly the accounting scandal that led it to bankruptcy and spurred the Department of Justice to file criminal charges against two former executives, the Clinton, Miss., company has emphasized the importance of its business, particularly its UUNet division, for the American economy. When CEO John Sidgmore spoke to the press July 2, for the first time since announcing the accounting irregularities, he said that WorldCom is the largest Internet carrier in the world, and that by many estimates it carries more than half the Internets total traffic.

Not so, according to Hossein Eslambolchi, chief technology officer at AT&T.

"I could say that I have infinite amounts of capacity out there, but I have to put bets on that capacity," Eslambolchi told reporters in a press briefing this afternoon. AT&T and WorldCom each carries approximately 15 percent of all U.S. Internet traffic, and the remaining 70 percent is shared among approximately 46 other carriers, he said.

WorldCom did not respond to telephone inquiries by our deadline.

AT&T officials downplayed fears that users would be stranded without Internet access if UUNet were to shut down, stressing that the rest of the industry could easily absorb WorldComs traffic. "It is not a huge issue. We feel the industry will be able to handle it," Eslambolchi said.

Although WorldCom officials have gone to great pains to assure users that there will be no service interruptions – and the Federal Communications Commission has gone to similar pains to stress that WorldCom cannot shut off service without adequate notice to users – AT&T officials today described a simple migration path to their door.

"For us its really a piece of cake. The challenge is not at the core of the network," Eslambolchi said about moving customers to its network. "Technologically speaking, this is not a big issue."

Migrating customers from WorldCom to AT&T may take as little as a few hours if the customer already has some form of connectivity via AT&T. However, users who do not already have connectivity through AT&T could face a delay of up to two months if the company has to deploy local infrastructure or negotiate with the local telephone company for access, Eslambolchi said.

AT&T is not building additional local infrastructure in anticipation of WorldComs worst nightmare coming true, but it is advising customers about how to prepare for that contingency. "We are building services and communicating with customers on options that focus on the uncertainties in the market," said Mike Jenner, vice president of Global IP Network Services at AT&Ts business division. "It is pro-active."

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