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Severed Cable Disrupts Phones

June 11, 1998

Separate equipment mishaps caused scattered disruptions in telephone and Internet service Thursday, resulting in busy signals and other bottlenecks for thousands of East Coast residents and businesses.

About 70,000 customers in Florida lost phone service when technicians mistakenly cut service at a switching center in a sprawling business district west of Miami.

In the Northeast, an MCI spokeswoman said a main company cable in the New York City area was accidentally cut about 11 a.m. EDT. While MCI immediately rerouted calls for its customers, other phone and Internet service companies leasing the line experienced disruptions while scrambling for alternate routes.

``It’s just like a traffic jam. We’re experiencing a very busy network,″ said Beverly Levy, spokeswoman for Southern New England Telecommunications, which has about 1.5 million business and residential customers, mostly in Connecticut. Levy said the problems were resolved by late afternoon.

Some New York and New England customers of Bell Atlantic Corp. also were experiencing disruptions in long-distance and toll-free calls, said Maureen Flanagan, a spokeswoman for the New York-based regional Bell company. Local calls were not affected.

WorldCom Inc., the nation’s fourth-largest long-distance phone company and a major Internet service provider, said some of its Northeast business customers were hit with about two hours of bottlenecks in Internet and phone service.

Leslie Aun, the spokeswoman for MCI Communications Corp., the nation’s second-largest long-distance phone company, said none of its customers were affected. AT&T Corp. and Sprint Corp., the two other large long-distance carriers, also said there were no problems.

But because of the heavy volume on lines, some callers in Connecticut who tried to use the telephone heard fast busy signals, dial tones or a recorded message, asking them to try the call again.

In the Miami problem, calls didn’t go through for about an hour after lunch, fax machines and credit-card confirmation machines went dead, and cellular phone lines overloaded when callers reached for their mobile phones at once.

BellSouth spokeswoman Judy Childers said the outage started when technicians were changing some signaling equipment.

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