Following an initial assessment, BellSouth  estimated it will cost between $400 million and $600 million to restore the parts of its network damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
The telco believes about 810,000 lines remain impacted in areas along the Gulf Coast in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Of BellSouth's 131 central offices in this area, all but 19 are currently operating.
"Most customers will be restored within 30 days. However, some communities may take longer to rebuild in certain cases depending on when residents and businesses are able to return to these most affected areas and the time it takes to rebuild needed local infrastructure," said BellSouth CTO Bill Smith. "On a priority basis, we continue to focus on restoration in support of public safety concerns, wireless services and relief activities."
Because of floodwater and access issues, BellSouth will track restoration activities in New Orleans separately, he added.
The telco has about 13,000 employees and Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, with 6,500 in "the hardest hit areas" from the hurricane. To help employees, BellSouth has set up "tent cities" in Baton Rouge and Covington, La.; and Gulfport, Hattiesburg and Jackson, Miss. The company will establish another this week in Kenner, La.
Meanwhile, more support from the telecom industry arrived late last week and into the early part of this week:
• Christians in Cable has established a relief fund, with 100 percent of proceeds going to cable company employees affected by Hurricane Katrina. Donations and gifts can be sent to: Christians in Cable, Katrina Relief Fund, Attention: Bob Higley, Treasurer, 2823 West Irving Blvd., Irving, Texas, 75061. Checks should be made payable to Christians in Cable and designated for the Katrina Relief Fund.
• EchoStar Communications  has installed TV service in nine shelters, including Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio. The company plans to establish service in "dozens" of other Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency shelters. The company has also initiated a fund-raising drive for its 20,000 employees.
• HDNet  will premiere a special episode of HDNet World Report tonight at 8 p.m. ET and 11 p.m. ET. The report will include hi-def footage of the flooded streets of New Orleans and the devastation across Mississippi and Alabama.
• DirecTV  has launched a 24/7 "Hurricane Katrina Information" channel. In addition to regular video news coverage, the channel also provides viewers the ability to send text messages to family and friends separated by the hurricane. The messages, placed by sending an e-mail message to Katrina@directv.com or to text code "48433" using cell phones, are scrolled across the bottom of the screen on channel 100. DirecTV is offering the capability via GoldPocket Wireless'  mobile platform.