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Glitch causes lapse in long-distance service

July 01, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Many of Sprint's 76,000 business and residential telephone customers were unable to place long-distance calls Wednesday because of a glitch that surfaced when the company tried to hook onto a system designed to improve long-distance service, a company spokeswoman said.

Yvonne Butts-Mitchell said all long-distance service was back in operation by late morning. Dozens of Sprint employees worked from 1:30 a.m., when the problem was discovered, to 11 a.m. to regain service.

Butts-Mitchell said the problem surfaced when the company tried to link Franklin County, Pa., customers onto an area-wide, fiber-optic grid that covers much of south Central Pennsylvania from as far north as Harrisburg to Gettysburg, Carlisle, Hanover and Mount Joy.

"Think of it as the face of a clock and you're trying to hook into an area between 5 and 6 on the face," Butts-Mitchell said.

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The problem was already in the system, but it remained dormant and undetected inside unused computer software. It did not surface until the hookup was attempted, she said.

Some customers had direct lines and were not affected, she said. Local and 911 calls were not affected, she said.

Butts-Mitchell said Sprint, which handles all of Franklin County's phone service, decided to invest in the fiber-optic grid to increase the reliability of long-distance service for its local customers.

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