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Verizon Optimistic NYSE Lines Will Be Ready for Monday's Open

Days after the collapse of the World Trade Center, the telephone company responsible for the bulk of the financial district's telecommunications is optimistic that the New York Stock Exchange will have sufficient capacity for its re-opening Monday.

Verizon Communications Co-CEO and President Ivan Seidenberg predicted a "relatively fair" capacity balance by Monday's re-open of trading after a four-day halt.

The issue is not just simply turning on the Stock Exchange, he said, "but turning it on in a way that is fair and balanced and serves the most people in relatively the same way. That's the way to get America back to work."

About 4,000 customers that rely on Verizon to route trading orders were cut off or impacted when the towers collapsed.

With almost irreparable damage to its 140th West Street central office (CO), Verizon Communications technicians are frantically scrambling to reroute the network to get voice and data networks running again.

The financial district gets most of its voice and data connectivity from Verizon's Broad Street and West Street central offices. The Broad Street CO has been up and running most of this week with the help of battery-powered generators that were brought in as soon as the city cut electricity to the district Tuesday morning.

The West Street CO, however, was at ground zero. As the buildings surrounding the WTC collapsed Tuesday afternoon, much of the steel and concrete smashed up against the back end of the switching office.

The NYSE itself is powered directly through the two COs, with 80 percent going through Broad Street and 20 percent through the West Street CO, a ratio that helps make Verizon optimistic about Monday's capacity.

The 31-story West Street building, which was built in 1929, is an almost complete write off, however. Its five sub-basements, which house the majority of the equipment and cabling for the Manhattan district, are now underwater from efforts to put out the fires that followed the towers' collapse.

Officials said the majority of the assessment is complete and that equipment testing would likely continue throughout the weekend along with clean-up efforts at the heavily-damaged office.

Larry Babbio, Verizon vice chairman and president, said despite the problems, the outlook is positive for Monday.

"At this point, we're hopeful, not confident, that we can accomplish our job to get the NYSE and the hundreds of trading companies involved up and running (by Monday)," Babbio said.

"I'm not naive enough to think that there won't be any problems, but we'll try damn hard to get it done. I know that once we get started, we're going to run into a hundred different problems we haven't even thought about yet."

Cleanup and rerouting efforts have been ongoing after clearance was given by structural engineers to enter the buildings where it maintains the switching equipment. More than 24 OC-48s worth of capacity, or 20 million T-1s, have been diverted from its COs and seven of its 10 wireless cell sites have been replaced.

Babbio said that much of the network has been rerouted, and that businesses have been contacted to have their services switched to an alternative location. He also thanked his competition, AT&T Corp. and competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) for their help in assisting Verizon with the network re-routes.

The company might be able to supplement some of its wire-based telephone services with wireless services, but stressed that the wireless network was never intended to replace land-based phone services.

Hundreds of the over-2,000 employees Verizon has deployed in lower Manhattan are expected to work through the weekend cleaning up the two offices and re-routing the network. Seidenberg said as of Friday, six Verizon employees were still unaccounted for after the towers collapsed.

If you consider the path that an average stock exchange trade takes from a broker, to a clearing house, to the Exchange floor, and then back once acknowledged, the workers have a lot to do, Babbio said.

"Each one of those processes is backed up by a whole process of computers that may or may not be in the southern Manhattan area. We need total connectivity to those locations. That's what we're shooting for."

As to whether the capacity will be sufficient when trading resumes, Seidenberg answered, "we'll know the answer when we turn the switch on Monday morning."

With additional reporting by Erin Joyce