Telecom firms ask State Department for help in preparation for year 2000
By Rebecca Blumenstein
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
NEW YORK, April 19 AT&T Corp. and the nations telecommunications industry
have asked the State Department for help in preparing phone networks
world-wide for potential year-2000 disruptions. The request was made after a
Federal Communications Commission meeting last week that looked into the
readiness of the worlds phone companies for potential problems once the
year 2000 begins.
AT&T CHAIRMAN C. MICHAEL ARMSTRONG chairs the committee, which is
called the Network Reliability and Interoperability Council.
AT&T officials said that while most large U.S. phone companies are
well prepared, there is growing evidence that many smaller phone companies
and a number of regions around the world run a high risk for problems.
Internationally, it appears that the readiness has worsened, said
A. John Pasqua, an AT&T vice president in charge of the companys year-2000
program. There has been a shift of some of these countries from medium to
How other countries are prepared could directly affect the U.S.
because the global telecommunications system relies on the interconnection
of the networks of many countries. Calls are handed off from one company to
another, often without callers realizing it. Any disruption in any of those
links could cause problems, say officials.
The FCC remains concerned about whether enough is being done on a
global basis to ensure that there are no significant network disruptions or
failures, according to the councils report. With updates from more than
190 countries, the council says that based on averages that are not
weighted, Western Europe, North America and the Asia/Pacific region are
categorized as low to medium risk. Other regions generally face medium to
high risk of disruption.
The council has asked the State Department and other federal agencies
for help in identifying and working with those countries with the worst
problems, especially those that have a lot of traffic with the U.S.
Most callers within the U.S. likely wont witness disruptions,
especially if they use one of the larger phone companies. There are 1,270
telephone companies in the U.S. and about the top 20% support approximately
99% of the access lines, said Mr. Pasqua.
We continue to show great progress domestically in preparing for
year 2000, he added. However, hundreds of smaller, independent providers
continue to fall behind the large companies such as AT&T, which has spent
$650 million to date in preparing its systems for potential problems.
According to the FCC, nearly half of the smaller companies said they
had no formal process for preparing for the year 2000.
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