NEW YORK --

Verizon today said it has now re-connected two-thirds of the voice lines served by its West Street switching center as people gradually return to their homes and businesses in lower Manhattan.

The company has either completely restored service to these customers or has provided alternative solutions -- such as rerouting numbers to new locations.

"Our people are focused on helping New York get back on its feet as fast as humanly possible," said Larry Babbio, Verizon vice chairman and president. "We've made significant progress, but we realize that each customer faces a different situation. We're working to provide a solution for all customers so they get the connections they need, where they need them."

Babbio said since some customers cannot return to their evacuated office buildings, their phone service must be transferred to a new location. Some other buildings can now be occupied and customers want to resume normal phone service there.

Verizon crews have repaired or completely rebuilt a large portion of the sophisticated electronic equipment and switching gear housed in the West Street facility, which was severely damaged during the World Trade Center disaster.

Verizon also continues to provide ongoing support to wholesale customers that resell the company's lines or purchase portions of its network. Verizon is working with competitive local exchange companies (CLECs) who connect to the Verizon network through facilities in lower Manhattan. In some cases, service was restored to these wholesale customers when Verizon rerouted service around damaged cables and equipment. Other CLECs serve their customers using equipment located in the West Street central office. Areas where that equipment is located were cleared of debris and cleaned so the providers could have access to their facilities.

Before the Sept. 11 attack, Verizon's West Street switching center had 200,000 voice lines for homes and small businesses. The office also serves approximately 100,000 voice lines for several large businesses. As of this morning, about two-thirds of those 300,000 voice lines had been either fully restored or redirected to new numbers.

The West Street facility also has a data capacity equivalent to 3.5 million circuits. About two million of those circuits flowed through the West Street building but did not terminate there. Of the two million flow-through circuits, about 80 percent of the capacity has been restored. The remaining data capacity originates or terminates at the West Street building. Verizon is working with customers to restore or reroute capacity for them on a case-by-case basis.

Severe flooding initially damaged telephone equipment at the West Street facility. Falling debris from the towers and the collapse of the nearby 7 World Trade Center building further damaged the West Street office and communications equipment. Steel girders and flying concrete crashed through the walls of the West Street building and buried nearby manholes in a mountain of rubble.

The company said that while crews have made extensive repairs to hundreds of pieces of equipment inside areas of the building cleared of rubble, they still do not have access to other areas of the office. They are also prevented from working in some parts of the underground cable vault, making it virtually impossible to completely assess the damage to thousands of phone cables that serve the lower Manhattan area. The company expects the debris to be cleared over the next week.

Restoration efforts are also hampered because Verizon has not been able to assess damage to telephone equipment at homes and business that were evacuated following the disaster. In many cases, the extent of damage will not be known until customers are allowed back into their residences and offices.

"Verizon crews are fixing thousands of connections each day, and we expect to speed up that pace once they are able to view the damage below street level and identify the problem areas," said Babbio.

Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 125 million access line equivalents and approximately 28 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. A Fortune 10 company with about 260,000 employees and approximately $65 billion in annual revenues, Verizon's global presence extends to more than 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.