Why thousands of Verizon customers in New York lost service

Thousands of Verizon customers in midtown Manhattan lost phone service Monday due to a circuit board failure. The company rushed to fix the problem but not fast enough for many in New York.

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    The logo of Verizon is shown on an office building in New York City. Thousands of Verizon customers in midtown Manhattan lost phone service Monday due to a circuit board failure.
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Verizon returned service to thousands of customers in midtown Manhattan late Monday afternoon after a failed circuit board silenced phones across New York.

That's a big relief for everyone from deli workers to sales people who found they couldn't dial out Monday morning or receive incoming calls. Instead, many customers, including this reporter, simply heard "all circuits" are busy – or just one of those annoying fast busy tones – when trying to use their land lines.

“It’s not like turning the lights back on,” says John Bonomo, a spokesman for Verizon in New York. “This is something that will happen over the next few hours.”

By 5:40 p.m., Verizon said that virtually all service had been restored.

But the return of service didn't happen fast enough for Bruce Shultman, manager at Berger’s On the Go, a deli on East 39th Street. “I lost a lot of business, with no phones we had nothing," he says.

Verizon said it was too soon to figure out how to compensate businesses for their lost sales. “We’re just focusing on getting the business back up and running,” says Mr. Bonamo.

The outage also meant that phones went silent at a nearby nail salon. Customers could not get through to make appointments, says Monica Pak, the owner of 38 Nail Studio on East 38th Street. And for walk-in customers paying with credit cards, says Ms. Pak, card services were either slow or not available. "People were complaining,” she says.

The outage also took its toll on Verizon's competition. It affected “dramatically” an AT&T Wireless sales office on Fifth Avenue, says a salesperson who was not authorized to speak for the company. “We just had to start processing things manually, make things happen,” he says.

The disruption also spread to Internet service for some. Empire Safe said it could receive phone calls but its Internet was down. “I don’t know who has been trying to send me an e-mail,” says a saleswoman, who did not want to give her name. “If it was important at least they could call.”

And, at Moulded Shoe, Inc., which sells specialized footwear, the loss of phone service meant they started using cell phones to conduct business, says Rafael Mousserie, the owner. “Our customers still can’t reach us to see if their orders are ready, but we’re using our cell phones, which saved the day."

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