Lawrence's largest long-distance telephone users were spared from any significant ill effects resulting from the most widespread long-distance problem ever for American Telephone & Telegraph Co.
The nine-hour outage occurred Monday and blocked about 50 percent of all long-distance phone calls made over AT&T lines nationwide, an AT&T spokesman in Kansas City, Mo., said today.
Despite the severity of the AT&T glitch, two of the city's largest long-distance users were able to dodge problems.
Entertel, a local telemarketing business, depends on long-distance for its livelihood. But Tom Olson, Entertel president, said the company doesn't use AT&T as its major long-distance carrier.
"A FEW PEOPLE called our 800 number and said they had trouble getting through," Olson said. "That's our one, single AT&T line. Everything else, we had no problems."
Sallie Mae, the Student Loan Marketing Assn., does depend on AT&T for its long-distance service. But Phil Nowak, manager of the Lawrence Sallie Mae office, said Sallie Mae observed the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday and was closed.
AT&T said it discovered the problem at mid-afternoon Monday and corrected it shortly before midnight. The problem was traced to the software, or program, that runs AT&T's computerized switching centers.
About half the long-distance callers on the AT&T network got a busy signal or a recording saying all circuits were busy, the company said.
MARK SEIGEL, a spokesman with AT&T in Kansas City, Mo., said area AT&T long-distance users were not immune from Monday's problem.
"It was a nationwide problem," Seigel said. "It's impossible to say whether the Midwest was hit any harder than another part of the country, but about 50 percent of all calls nationwide were blocked."
In Lawrence, several other companies that regularly use long-distance in their daily business reported minimal problems from Monday's outage.
JoAnn Shipley, Lawrence Floral, said her flower shop "really didn't have any problems at all." The same held true for the local Edward D. Jones office, with the exception of some problems with 800 numbers.
AT&T controls about 70 percent of the nation's long-distance market. Its main competitors, MCI Communications Corp. and US Sprint, reported no problems.