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How smart users handle long-distance outage; lessons for future in AT&T incident.

How Smart Users Handle Long-Distance Outage Users who found creative ways around the Jan. 15 software troubles that disabled AT&T's long-distance network are ready should the unthinkable happen again. But they don't seem to be holding a grudge.

"It could have happened to anybody," Tom Pollando says of the Signalling System 7 problems that took switches out of service in a domino effect. Pollando is corporate director of communications for PaineWebber, a big AT&T customer.

"We didn't have any real problem. It did not affect our wire system or T1 backbone. We still had 50% of our calls going through."

Pollando said they informed people through their wire network to use the firm's "hoot and holler" lines or the T1 backbone, but if they had to dial long-distance calls, to keep at it.

Pollando said AT&T kept him well-informed of the situation.

"We lost our ISDN D channel and it took out 72 of our ANI trunks," says Bruce Meadows, telecomm engineer for Union Pacific Railroad in St. Louis.

"Our outbound trunks were Sprint, so we called the customers who normally call us in that time frame. We took our operation from an inbound call center to an outbound one.

"We had backup from other carriers, but the problem was our customers didn't know some of our access numbers. We didn't really have a serious impact. It was Martin Luther King Day and our call volumes were already down," says Meadows.

"What they were doing with SS7, they were trying to run the latest and greatest technology. We don't like to see it happen, but we understand. That could happen to our own network."

When Firestone users in Akron, Ohio, started reporting trouble, Ernie Florkowski had them "turn off every AT&T line and route everything over our other vendors. If we get busies then, it's our fault."

Florkowski, manager of communications operations, says, "We were affected very little. It was getting to the end of the day anyway. We caught it early and we took a precautionary routing change immediately."

The holiday timing made a difference, Florkowski says. "Here it was a Monday afternoon, nearly the end of the day. If they could have picked a day, they couldn't have picked a better day."

At USAir, which is about 90% AT&T, the switching problems meant about 25,000 fewer calls that day, or about 12% of the daily average, says Joyce Kane, director of communication services. Their internal 800 services were also affected.

"On outbound services we have alternative carriers in a number of locations. We advised users to use the alternative access codes for other carriers. They were able to complete a significant volume of their business."

USAir alerted its users to the situation via a message switching system driven by the reservations database. The message, Kane says, came across a printer.

"AT&T is not the only carrier with SS7. Others could have the same type of problem. I've never seen anything like it and hope we never will again. But we'll take our lumps and go. Overall I think their reaction was very positive and credible," says Kane.

Susan Bober, vice president at financial services firm T. Rowe Price in Baltimore, says she didn't see much of a decrease in inbound 800 calls, but did on outbound long-distance.

"We shifted all our outgoing traffic to MCI. We continued on with our business, and when we got an all-clear frrom AT&T the next morning shifted all of our business back."

For her, a simple software change in the PBX made the changeover transparent to her users.

Contract Telemarketing Corp. in North Hollywood, Calif., should have been down for the count when its long-distance calls wouldn't go through. But its software kept business going.

Contract Telemarketing has 130 staffers doing market research, direct sales, and convention marketing. Rather than shut down, they called on capabilities of their Edge Tele-Business software from Coffman Systems.

All individuals with local area codes or exchanges were culled from the total population of names to be called.

Then those names were transferred from one call list to a new one. The entire transfer took only a few minutes.
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Author:Tanzillo, Kevin
Publication:Communications News
Date:Mar 1, 1990
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