TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: From Our Archives: The Great AT&T Outage, January, 1990

From Our Archives: The Great AT&T Outage, January, 1990

TELECOM Digest Editor (
Sun, 7 Jan 2007 00:49:48 -0500 (EST)

Remembering the great AT&T outage from seventeen years ago this month,
in January, 1990; here are a few messages from the middle of January
that year. PAT]

Date: Tue, 16 Jan 90 0:02:11 CST
From: TELECOM Moderator <>
Subject: TELECOM Digest V10 #29
Message-ID: <>

TELECOM Digest Tue, 16 Jan 90 00:00:02 CST Volume 10 : Issue 29

Today's Topics: Moderator: Patrick Townson

Nationwide Long-Distance Outage (Rich Kulawiec)
Who's Using Whom? (John Higdon)

[Moderator's Note: Our Usenet gateway machine, has
been down for three days, and the Digest is not making it out to the
comp.dcom.telecom newsgroup right now. When accuvax is back in service
the unsent messages will be distributed. Please advise any Usenetters
you may know of the problem. Thanks. PT]

Date: Mon, 15 Jan 90 16:17:29 MST
From: Rich Kulawiec <>
Subject: Nationwide Long-Distance Outage

CNN is reporting that AT&T says that some sort of major disruption of
long-distance service started around 2:30 pm EST today. I've been
unable to reach area codes 415, 317, 213, and 312; each attempt yields
an "all circuits are busy" recording. CNN says that AT&T does not
know the source of the trouble.

Rich Kulawiec

[Moderator's Note: As of 10 PM CST Monday night (as I am typing this),
WGN-TV is interviewing an AT&T spokesperson who says the source of the
problem is not yet known, but it is believed to be a software glitch.
The problem is nationwide, resulting in many (most?) calls reaching an
intercept message, 'Your call did not go through' (here in Chicago).
The spokesperson said they are working frantically on the problem, but
may not have service entirely restored before 'sometime Tuesday'.
About half of my calls completed okay Monday evening, the other half
failed. The network failure has caused considerable congestion on
MCI/Sprint lines; and of course, as Higdon points out in the next
message, some alternate carriers in fact use AT&T circuits for some of
their calls. PT]


Subject: Who's Using Whom?
Reply-To: John Higdon <>
Organization: Green Hills and Cows
Date: 15 Jan 90 14:14:09 PST (Mon)
From: John Higdon <>

AT&T long distance has been severely disrupted today in the Bay Area
due to a major cable cut, according to an AT&T operator I talked to.

Why is this of any interest? Well, it seems that Sprint is down as
well. Why? Sprint leases facilities from AT&T. So all of the ballyhoo
about Sprint's fiber optics is, to some degree, actually AT&T's fiber

Sort of reminds one of the old story about how all gasoline comes from
the same delivery truck. We have all of the advertising about product
differentiation, and it turns out that aspirin is aspirin after all.

So Sprint's advanced fiber optic network is, at least in part, AT&T's
fiber optic network. Well, well. It is amazing what you can learn
about someone when his pants are down!

John Higdon | P. O. Box 7648 | +1 408 723 1395 | San Jose, CA 95150 | M o o !

[Moderator's Note: I really think the operator you interviewed spoke
without full knowledge of the circumstances of the outage; that is,
unless by coincidence there was also a major cable problem out there
as well as the nationwide network problem. PT]

Date: Wed, 17 Jan 90 0:25:27 CST
From: TELECOM Moderator <>
Subject: TELECOM Digest V10 #30
Message-ID: <>

TELECOM Digest Wed, 17 Jan 90 00:25:19 CST Volume 10 : Issue 30

Today's Topics: Moderator: Patrick Townson

AT&T Reliability (System Administrator)
Reporting of the AT&T Outage (David Tamkin)
Reach Out and Touch Someone? (Al Donaldson)
Re: Nationwide Long Distance Outage (Bill Berbenich)
Re: Who's Using Whom? (John McHarry)
Re: Who's Using Whom? (John Higdon)

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