Phone outage hits East Coast NEW YORK (AP) -- Businesses in major East Coast cities, including hospitals and the New York Mercantile Exchange, were thrown into turmoil Wednesday by a telephone outage that caused scattered interruptions of services. The problem, which began shortly before 2 p.m. EST, was traced to a breakdown in equipment owned by Illuminet Inc., a privately held company that provides signaling and other services to phone company networks. The outage was reported by phone customers of Teleport Communications Group Inc., a regional supplier of local telephone service to mostly big businesses in 66 major cities. It relies on the Illuminet services. Also affected were mobile-phone customers of Bell Atlantic Corp. and AT&T Corp., which use Illuminet's network to complete their wireless calls. Phone problems were ``spotty'' but were being reported ``all over the city,'' said Sunny Mindel, a spokeswoman for the New York City mayor's Office of Emergency Management. Phone service was gradually coming back in the afternoon, said Nancy Jackson, a spokeswoman for Olympia, Wash.-based Illuminet. Among those reporting outages were the New York Mercantile Exchange, the world's largest market for trading oil, Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital also in Manhattan, and WMAR-TV in Baltimore. Traders, doctors and business executives were forced to rely on alternate means, such as using mobile phones. ``It's a major phone problem. It's chaos, total chaos,'' said a woman working the switchboard at Columbia-Presbyterian, who declined to give her name. ``We've had at least 400 calls already from inside the hospital trying to call out.'' At the New York Mercantile Exchange, ``People on the trading floor can't make outgoing calls. If you get an order you can't execute it,'' said Bob Yawger, a broker at E.D. & F. Man International Futures Inc. in New York. He said there also were problems with incoming calls. Trading at the Nymex was forced to close early because of the phone outage. Jackson, the Illuminet spokeswoman, said the trouble occurred when fiber was cut in the company's network in Illinois, causing problems in signaling centers in Matoon, Ill., and Rock Hill, S.C. Illuminet had another outage last October, when service was disrupted for about 12 hours to mostly medium-sized and large businesses and resulted in trading suspensions on the Nymex.
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