Year 2000 Computing Crisis:

Readiness of the Telecommunications Industry

AIMD-99-293: Published: Sep 30, 1999. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the readiness of the telecommunications industry in meeting the year 2000 technology challenge.

GAO noted that: (1) basic network services are unlikely to be immediately disrupted by year 2000-related problems if networks are left unremediated according to experts who have been tracking and studying the telecommunications industry's year 2000 risks; (2) however, telecommunications carriers could still experience problems with network maintenance, service billing, or operator interfaces, such as incorrect date or day-of-week displays; (3) major U.S. public telecommunications carriers have reported making good progress in remediating their networks and supporting systems in order to prevent these types of year 2000-related problems; (4) however, the status of international carrier renovation efforts is less certain; (5) according to the Network Reliability and Interoperability Council (NRIC), large domestic carriers expect to achieve year 2000 compliance by the end of the third quarter of 1999, while medium and small carriers are projecting that they will achieve compliance through the fourth quarter of 1999; (6) domestic wireless providers report similar progress, with large providers estimating compliance by mid-1999 and medium and small carriers projecting compliance through the third quarter of 1999; (7) while information is available to NRIC on major carrier readiness, there is less information on the status of medium and small carriers; (8) as a result, efforts are ongoing to collect more data on the readiness of these carriers; (9) the Federal Communications Commission is completing a survey, the U.S. Telephone Association is polling its members, and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners is developing a state-by-state assessment; (10) the testing efforts that have been undertaken over the past year by domestic carriers further indicate that remediated networks will not experience major disruptions as a result of the year 2000; (11) internationally, NRIC reported in July 1999 that, while countries around the globe continue to make progress, with some exceptions, their efforts have not matched the pace of efforts in the United States and Canada; (12) NRIC cautioned, however, that the information available for its assessment was limited and varied in its view from source to source; (13) also, the results of the assessment varied widely within each region; (14) the interoperability testing of international gateway switches is still under way; and (15) in addition to renovating and testing telecommunications systems and networks, it is also vital that carriers and the industry plan for unexpected failures, such as power losses.

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