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Broadwing Starts Phasing Out Data Centers

Broadwing, a national voice and data communications carrier, is going through with its previously announced intentions to close eight of 11 data collocation facilities nationwide, a process that has caught some of its customers flat-footed.

The Cincinnati Bell subsidiary has fallen victim to the aftermath of the dot com collapse that started roughly 18 months ago, a decline in the industry that led to Broadwing's November decision to consolidate its colo facilities into three main "hub" centers (in Austin, TX, Cincinnati, OH, and Newark, DE), and cut 15 percent of its employees.

The carrier giant, which has 18,000 thousand miles of fiber optic lines strewn throughout the U.S. and connected to these data centers, is apparently feeling the crunch as Internet-based companies either go out of business or scale down their online presence.

While they own state-of-the-art facilities around the nation, giving customers easy access to plenty bandwidth capacity, Broadwing's facilities face stiff competition from companies like WorldCom subsidiary UUNet , AT&T , Level 3 Communications and Williams Communications .

Shane Kenny, president of Atlanta-based Internet service provider (ISP) SafeBrowse.com, Inc., said he got a call from his sales rep Friday morning telling him the news for the first time. The news comes as a shock, he said, considering the relative strength, or so he was told, of the Cincinnati Bell-owned company.

"It kinda makes me mad, we had just moved out of NetRail, (a colo company and ISP that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year) and took a look at Broadwing's financials before we moved in," Kenny said. "They said they were going to be cash-flow positive in the summer of 2002 so we figured they'd stay open, but there was just no demand for the colo space."

He mentioned that at the facility in Atlanta (which Broadwing leases from competitor Internap ), a building that spans thousands of square feet of space for businesses to "park" their servers and other Internet equipment, only 10 to 15 customers were using the space at the time.

That lack of demand makes it hard to keep operations going and still pull a profit. It seems to be a decision reached to scale down Broadwing's money-losing operations to speed up their goal of cash-flow positive next year. Last year, only 20 percent of the carrier's revenues came from Internet services.

Broadwing currently maintains facilities in Dallas and Austin, TX; Newark, DE; Los Angeles and Santa Clara, CA; New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Washington, D.C.

Broadwing officials could not be reached for comment on the imminent shutdown or plans to help migrate their customers in affected areas to new facilities.

Kenny said his Broadwing contact mentioned there are a couple of options available for the communications carrier. In Atlanta, he was told one involves BellSouth or Internap buying up the facility and Broadwing keeping a presence to maintain the facility.