High-tech protection

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 3, 2004

JACKSON – On Tuesday, during a news conference at the E-911 Center in Jackson, Sprint and Northampton County officials announced the completion of a new &uot;survivable&uot; fiber-optic &uot;ring&uot; that will provide added security for the communications network of Northampton County residents through a sophisticated E-911 Center.

The synchronous optical network (SONET) ring will guard the network by automatically rerouting communications traffic in the event of a disruption such as a cable cut.

&uot;During Hurricane Floyd, Northampton County lost all telephone communication outside the county,&uot; recalled Emergency Management Director Ron Storey at the meeting. &uot;Local calls were only good for the area of exchange, Jackson could talk to Jackson, Conway to Conway, but Jackson could not talk to Conway customers, but now, Sprint has made it possible for all the citizens of Northampton County to attain the equipment for a redundant back up system at no additional cost to the county.&uot;

Tom Matthews, Media/Public Relations Manager for the Local Telecom Division, explained that fiber optic cable for the new system already connected many of the central offices in the area including Weldon and Jackson as other points protected by the ring.

&uot;Those points overlap yet another ring protecting other portions of Sprint’s Northampton County network,&uot; he said.

Storey recounted that during Hurricane Isabel, phone service to the Emergency Operations Center and E-911 Center was also down.

&uot;The county system went out first,&uot; he said, &uot;but then the dedicated lines failed, which is what the E-911 Center operates on.

&uot;We could not receive or send information by telephone to anyone outside the center and although cell phones are good, they are not the best back-up for the phone system due to excessive use by others and phone outages.&uot;

Storey also emphasized the importance of Internet connection being operational &uot;at all times&uot; to promote the rapid response of requests for assistance and/or supplies.

&uot;We utilize SONET rings across North Carolina,&uot; said Hank Adams, Sprint’s Area Director for Customer Service Operations, who coordinated the Northampton project. &uot;They provide important network security and redundancy. This new ring plays a key role in the region and statewide and we were more than pleased to participate and provide this service to the county.&uot;

Sprint invested more than $200,000 on an eight-mile link between the Seaboard and Garysburg switches and an additional $11,000 on a permanent generator in Jackson.

&uot;The generator will provide an uninterruptible power source for the switch in the event commercial power is disrupted,&uot; said Matthews.

&uot;This protective ring offers an important level of communications security for critical law enforcement, firefighting and rescue operations,&uot; said Wayne Jenkins, Northampton County manager. &uot;Sprint’s investment in this project demonstrates its commitment to our county and I believe this demonstrates a corporate-government partnership to the good of the citizens.&uot;

Charlotte Underwood, Sprint’s area Public Affairs Manager, stated that the company was &uot;proud to provide a communications network to enhance the services provided by the state-of-the-art E-911 center,&uot; and added, &uot;The vital communications to and from the center are much less likely to be affected with this new system should part of the network serving the E-911 Center be damaged via cable cut or the effects of a storm.&uot;

&uot;This will emergency personnel to communicate with someone in need during an incident,&uot; said Storey.

&uot;We can’t express enough gratitude,&uot; said Northampton E-911 Director Pam Benthall. &uot;Many don’t know the value of SONET, but we have been involved throughout the process and we are very grateful for this partnership.&uot;

Jenkins expressed thanks to Sprint for &uot;stepping up to the plate&uot; and helping the county through the much-needed transition and update and added that even though it wasn’t a &uot;fix-all&uot; solution, the county would choose to partner with Sprint all over again.

Sprint (NYSE: FON) is a global integrated communications provider serving more than 26 million customers in over 100 countries.

With approximately 65,000 employees worldwide and over $26 billion in annual revenues in 2003, and is widely recognized for developing, engineering and deploying state-of-the-art network technologies, including the first nationwide all-digital, fiber-optic network and an award-winning Tier 1 Internet backbone.

Sprint provides local communications services in 39 states and the District of Columbia and operates the largest 100-percent digital, nationwide PCS wireless network in the US. For more information, visit www.sprint.com.