With WorldCom in Chapter 11 and other big bankruptcies on the horizon, the service provider world is in a highly uncertain state. What can network executives do to protect their companies?With\u00a0WorldCom\u00a0in Chapter 11 and other big bankruptcies on the horizon, the service provider world is in a highly uncertain state. What can network executives do to protect their companies?First and foremost, service quality almost certainly will suffer in these turbulent times, so diversification of service providers is essential. Audit your enterprise nets to ascertain which service providers are being used for which services, and at what cost. Try to share the pie with as many service providers as possible. It's time to re-evaluate service provider contracts that provide discounts for longevity and volume, because flexibility and carrier diversity should be design goal No. 1.It's also time to take control of communications back from the service providers. During the late '90s, there was a shift to using carrier services for most enterprise communications. The balance of build vs. lease for enterprise communications should tilt back toward build, and steeply. Two parts of the enterprise net that should change quickly are voice and private wide-area data networking. In the voice area, economic efficiency and increased productivity through collaborative communication applications has been proven with open IP telephony offerings. We are at the stage where IP telephony products can be extended over wide-area IP nets, reducing toll cost and arbitraging private line tariffs.Also, there is a shift to replace private wide-area backbone networks with public multihomed Internet services. Explore accelerating this shift with route control products. Private nets are expensive in terms of capital equipment and operational expenditures, static in configuration and not flexible enough to change if you have carrier problems.For intranet and extranet traffic, using route control to move packets between carriers based on performance, price, delay and jitter is an excellent insurance policy for an unstable carrier environment. Private network structures can be reconfigured with route control into multihomed public ISP connections to a variety of service providers delivering control, diversity, lower cost of ownership and piece of mind while the service provider industry changes. Route control brings predictable performance to ISP links, letting companies move IP telephony, VPN and other traffic over this infrastructure and between sites.Things are going to get worse before they get better, but there is light at the end of the tunnel in 2004. After the telecom industry goes through capital restructuring and executive management change-out, chances are it will re-emerge stronger.The main message is this: Don't run and hide; you need to be aware of these events and plan. Take control of your communications infrastructure and start thinking about building services rather than leasing them from service providers. IP telephony and route control are two inter-related technologies of the new enterprise communication infrastructure that can deliver control, reduce cost and increase diversity during very unpredictable times.This column is an abbreviated version of the Lippis Report #007. To read the full report, register at www.lippis.com. Lippis is an industry consultant who works with CIOs of Global 2000 companies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.