AT&T reassures nervous feds on IP capacity

There is plenty of capacity to handle the nation's IP traffic even if the UUNet backbone, one of the nation's largest carriers of Internet traffic, shuts down, AT&T Corp. told government officials.

UUNet parent WorldCom Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection last month. Homeland security officials and federal customers have expressed concern about the stability of the IP infrastructure in the wake of the filing, said Hossein Eslambolchi, the telecom company's chief technology officer and president of AT&T Labs. Company officials assured the government Wednesday that handling the additional traffic if UUNet were to go dark would be 'a piece of cake.'

WorldCom CEO John Sidgmore has said he does not believe UUNet would go down under any circumstances, but AT&T officials have gone on the road to address concerns from the government and customers about the consequences of a worst-case scenario.

Eslambolchi and J. Michael Jenner, vice president of AT&T's Global IP Network Services, disputed claims that UUNet carries more than 50 percent of the nation's IP traffic. They said AT&T is virtually tied with UUNet for the number one carrier spot with about a 15 percent share of traffic. In the event of a shutdown, the country's eight major backbone providers would easily absorb UUNet's share, they said.

'Most likely, our traffic would go up 35 or 40 percent,' Eslambolchi said. Given the company's projected 250 percent growth in IP traffic over the next year, he described that increase as no more than background noise.

'The bottleneck would be at the edge of the network,' Eslambolchi said. Providing local access to backbones could take months in some places in the event of a massive switchover, he said. 'We are deploying local access infrastructure all over the country, but we're not everywhere.'

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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