* Floods knock out Verizon's West Street central office
* AT&T, T-Mobile USA, Sprint suffer service problems
* Comcast, Verizon Wireless assessing the situation
By Sinead Carew
NEW YORK, Oct 30 Power outages and flooding
caused by Hurricane Sandy disrupted telecommunications services
in Northeastern states on Tuesday, resulting in spotty coverage
for cellphones, television, home telephones and Internet
While all the region's telecom service providers were having
problems, Verizon Communications, which serves many of
the states in the hurricane's path, appeared to have suffered
some of the worst damage from the storm.
The New York-based company said the storm caused flooding at
three Verizon central offices that hold telecom equipment in
Lower Manhattan as well as sites in Queens and Long Island.
Its downtown headquarters, which was put out of action 11
years ago by the September 11 attacks, had three feet of water
in the lobby at one point. Because of flooding, all its telecom
equipment at that office, which serves much of Wall Street and
downtown consumers, was knocked out of service.
The company said it was working on pumping out the water in
the hope that it could restart its back-up power generators in
the facility as commercial power services were not yet restored
the morning after the big storm hit.
"The bullseye of the impact is the metro area," said
spokesman William Kula, adding that restoring service for the
city's financial district was a top priority for Verizon.
Telecom disruptions affect electronic trading as well as
corporate operators. The Chief Operating Officer of the New York
Stock Exchange, which does not expect to open again until
Wednesday, said "lots of telecom infrastructure is down" and
that the NYSE was working with big firms to ensure they were
doing testing of their systems.
Verizon did not give an estimate as to how many businesses
and consumers were affected. Two of three Manhattan central
offices were partially flooded and operating minimal services.
Customers served by the damaged central offices will
experience "a loss of all services" including TV, Internet, and
traditional telephone services, Kula said. Some customers may
experience intermittent busy signals for non-emergency calls.
Verizon said its engineers were working on assessing the
damage from the early hours. Outside of New York, the company
warned that it was also having some trouble.
"Verizon is discovering that many poles and power
lines/Verizon cables are down throughout the region due to heavy
winds and falling trees," the company said in a statement.
Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc, Sprint Nextel,
T-Mobile USA said they were dealing with wireless service
problems in the hurricane region. Cable operators Cablevision
Systems Corp, Comcast Corp and Time Warner
Cable also said they were having service problems.
"I think everybody's equipment's going to be damaged,
including cellphone towers," Stifel Nicolaus analyst Christopher
King said from his Verizon Wireless cellphone in Baltimore.
"Particularly for Verizon, they're clearly going to have the
most damage on the wireline side because its pretty much all of
their territory (where the storm hit)," King said.
Sprint Nextel, the No. 3 U.S. mobile provider said it
was seeing outages at some cell sites because of the power
outages across all the states in Sandy's path including New
York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Washington DC,
Maryland, North Virginia and New England.
"(Repair crews) have started on some critical areas but they
haven't been able to get to everywhere they need to be,"
spokeswoman Crystal Davis said. She noted that 80 of the
company's stores would reopen at noon. Sprint had closed about
180 stores ahead of the storm.
T-Mobile USA said that "customers may be experiencing
service disruptions or an inability to access service in some
areas, especially those that were hardest hit by the storm."
People complained of outages to their cable telephone,
Internet and television services from providers including
Comcast, Cablevision and Verizon in New Jersey, Connecticut, and
Cablevision said it was experiencing widespread service
interruptions primarily related to loss of power. The company
said it is working to restore services.
Comcast, whose headquarters is in Philadelphia and serves
East Coast states, said that for the majority of customers,
"Comcast service should be restored as power comes back on to
Cellphone service was spotty for top wireless providers
Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc and T-Mobile USA, a unit of
Deutsche Telekom, according to some customers.
Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications and
Vodafone Group, said on Tuesday afternoon that customers
may be experiencing service issues and that about 94 percent of
its cell sites were up and running.
AT&T said it was experiencing some issues in areas heavily
affected by the storm. By Tuesday morning spokesman Mark Siegel
said AT&T was in the initial stages of on-the-ground assessment
and that it expected "crews will be working around the clock to
Several Time Warner Cable customers in Brooklyn said
that their Internet, television and phone services stopped
working Monday night but were back again by Tuesday morning.
Time Warner Cable said that while it has not seen any major
damage to its infrastructure, its customers who do no have
electricity do not have cable services.
Millions of people in the eastern United States awoke on
Tuesday to flooded homes, fallen trees and widespread power
outages caused by Sandy, which swamped New York City's subway
system and submerged streets in Manhattan's financial district.
At least 30 people were reported killed in the United States
by one of the biggest storms to ever hit the country. Sandy
dropped just below hurricane status before making landfall on
Monday night in New Jersey.