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Overloaded phone system to get $8 million upgrade

May 04, 2001

Overloaded phone system to get $8 million upgrade



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY

andreabh@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - Verizon will soon begin an $8 million upgrade of its telephone network in Williamsport to help the phone company manage the growing community's increasing call volume.

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The expanding number of connections for telephone, Internet and other electronic uses in the Williamsport area has taxed the phone system, according to Verizon spokeswoman Sandra Arnette. The installation of new switch modules and other updated equipment should correct the problem.

The upgrade will triple the system's capacity from about 10,000 calls to about 30,000.

Currently, when the number of calls exceeds the system's processing capacity, callers hear a fast busy signal. That's often just an inconvenience for customers. But when a medical emergency strikes, the problem becomes more than just annoying.

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Joyce Gunstone said she kept receiving a fast busy signal when she tried to call Williamsport Family Practice, 3 Byrkit Drive.

"All I got was busy, busy, busy, busy," Gunstone said. She finally drove her husband, Bill, to the local medical office. Doctors said he had suffered a mild heart attack.

Gunstone said she was "aggravated to say the least" at not being able to reach the doctor's office by phone. She didn't call an ambulance because they didn't think her husband's health problem was life-threatening, she said.

Williamsport resident Pat Werdebaugh said she's faced the same problem when trying to call the medical practice.

"I tried to call and call and it was busy every time," she said. "I hope they can get this thing straightened out because it's important for everybody."

Gunstone complained in March to a receptionist at the family practice after failing to reach the office by phone on several more occasions. She received an explanatory letter from Office Manager Jennifer Adams.

In the letter, dated March 28, Adams blamed Verizon for the problem.

Wayne Gilbert, communications director at Washington County Hospital, is looking into the phone situation with Adams, hospital spokeswoman Maureen Theriault said Thursday.

Williamsport Family Practice is affiliated with the hospital through Antietam Health Services. The practice and the hospital do not share a phone network, Theriault said.

Verizon's system upgrade will begin June 1 and should be finished in October, Arnette said. It will enable Verizon to triple the number of customers it serves.

"We're hoping with the new systems we'll be able to handle a lot more calls," Arnette said.

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