Phone Problems in Florida : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Thousands disconnected July 15, 1999 By Paul T. Rosynsky of the News staff

PORT ST. LUCIE - What was intended to give BellSouth customers improved service gave them headaches instead Wednesday as an ''upgrade'' at a regional transfer station disrupted telephone service to 187,500 Treasure Coast residents.

The outage, which affected everything from St. Lucie County's 911 system to take-out pizza orders, began about 1 a.m. and spread from Port St. Lucie to Sebastian.

Although service resumed for most customers by 7 a.m., some areas of Port St. Lucie weren't fully restored until early afternoon, BellSouth reported.

The problem began in the transfer station, a concrete bunker-like building off Port St. Lucie Boulevard just west of U.S. 1, where three technicians were working to give BellSouth computers more power. The intent was to make the computers better able to handle sophisticated operations such as call waiting and three-way calling.

When the technicians connected new electrical lines to a bank of high-powered batteries, the resulting power surge appeared about to exceed acceptable limits - which could have destroyed the entire computer system.

So workers immediately shut down the system, cutting service to 187,500 customers whose phone lines go through the regional station.

''What caused the haywire was shutting it off,'' said BellSouth spokesman Rob Seitz.

Added regional manager Sid Poe, ''It's kind of like when you hit a brick wall. When it went down, everything stopped.'' In Port St. Lucie, lines for 17,500 customers - exchanges 337, 335 and 398 - originate at the station, and those customers lost dial tone and all service. An additional 170,000 customers in Fort Pierce, Vero Beach and Sebastian lost regional and long-distance service routed through the station but could make local calls.

The shutdown sparked a series of frantic phone calls to BellSouth officials from West Palm Beach to Atlanta to determine what happened and find a solution to what Poe called an ''unusual'' outage.

The hum of computers and the high-pitch noise of running batteries was transformed into eerie silence as technicians feverishly worked to restore power. More than a dozen technicians converged on the station in the early morning to bring the computers back online.

But unlike a personal computer, which reboots itself in seconds, technicians had to carefully inspect every piece of equipment, a process that took hours, spokesman Seitz said. ''Unfortunately, its not like an on-and-off switch,'' he said.

-- (, July 19, 1999



Thousands disconnected by "upgrade"

-- Linda (, July 20, 1999.

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