Year 2000 Computing Crisis:

Telecommunications Readiness Critical, Yet Overall Status Largely Unknown

T-AIMD-98-212: Published: Jun 16, 1998. Publicly Released: Jun 16, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed: (1) the nation's telecommunications infrastructure; (2) the risks facing the nation if critical components of that infrastructure are not year 2000 compliant by the turn of the century; (3) federal government actions relating to national, international, and governmental telecommunications infrastructure; and (4) present issues that must be addressed.

GAO noted that: (1) major disruption in the service provided by the public telecommunications network can affect millions of users and cause massive financial losses; (2) the consequences of not resolving year 2000 problems in the telecommunications infrastructure are broad-based and potentially disastrous; (3) telecommunications problems can affect virtually all network components--switches, routers, private branch exchanges, and Internet servers--all of which must be assessed and tested; (4) compounding the risk is the global nature of today's telecommunications, which rely on seamless connections among widely scattered and widely diverse networks; (5) in light of the potential risks involved, the federal government has recently begun to address the year 2000 readiness of the telecommunications sector; (6) the government is undertaking telecommunications initiatives from three perspectives: national, international, and governmental; (7) key federal initiatives are in their early stages on a national, international, and governmental level, and critical issues remain to be addressed; (8) given the inarguably critical nature of the telecommunications services to the functioning of the nation, coordinated oversight is essential; (9) in order to gain confidence that the telecommunications infrastructure will be ready for the next century, accountability must be established; this includes a broad strategy as well as specific milestones and defined accountability; and (10) several major issues must be addressed: (a) obtaining information on the readiness status of various segments of the telecommunications industry for the next century; (b) establishing a mechanism for obtaining such readiness information on a regular basis; (c) setting milestones for achieving year 2000 compliance; (d) disseminating readiness status information to the public and Congress; and (e) developing--in conjunction with the private sector--contingency plans to ensure business continuity, albeit at reduced levels, in the event that not all telecommunications systems are fully operational on January 1, 2000.

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