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Troubled telecommunications network developer 360networks Inc. and its units have filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada and the United States.

The Vancouver-based firm issued a release Thursday night saying it had filed under the the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) at the B.C. Supreme Court.

Its U.S. holdings also filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 in New York.

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"We are taking these steps to restructure our business and financial position in a difficult telecommunications environment," Greg Maffei, president and CEO of the firm, said in a release. "While very disappointing, we believe today's filings provide us the best opportunity to reorganize and operate our core business."

The firm said it has $155-million (U.S.) in cash and investments on hand, which it says it will use to continue operations.

In what it described as an "extremely difficult" decision, the company said late Wednesday it will cut its global work force by almost half.

It blamed the move on the dramatic slowdown in the world's telecommunications market and the company's need to pare costs.

The reductions will affect about 800 jobs at the company, or roughly 44 per cent of the workforce. The cuts affect a range of positions in North America, Europe, South America and Asia.

The company will continue to employ about 1,000 people after the workforce reductions are completed.

"This was an extremely difficult decision, but necessary in light of the very challenging telecom environment and our need to operate as cost- efficiently as possible," Mr. Maffei said in a statement released after the markets closed Wednesday.

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"I want to thank our employees for their dedication to the company and their many achievements in both the development of our network and the provision of services to our customers."

A company spokeswoman told Canadian Press that half of the affected positions will be in the United States, while 150 of the jobs will be in Canada. They cover a variety of areas, including sales, operations, marketing, product development and human resources.

Slowing demand for bandwidth has hit the British Columbia firm hard in recent months.

360networks has been reeling in recent months as the prospects for its $7-billion global high-speed data network project deflated with the technology-sector slump.

The company's ambitious plan to complete and light a globe-girdling, 50-city network have been derailed amid worries of a glut of fibre-optic capacity and a price drop triggered by declining demand.

Earlier this month, 360networks missed a $10.9-million (U.S.) debt payment, which now carries a mid-July deadline to make good.

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- with files from Canadian Press



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