FCC Report on Telecommunications Y2K Readiness

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

USIS Washington File
27 July 1999

Text: FCC Report on Telecommunications Y2K Readiness

The NRIC was established by the FCC to provide advice on how to improve the reliability of the public-switched networks and on other issues requiring technical expertise in telecommunications. Its members represent all sectors of the telecommunications industry.

The panel has been working for months to determine how well the telecommunications industry has been preparing for the turn of the century on January 1, 2000, when some computers could be vulnerable to failure because they may mistake the new century for the year 1900.

The public and private sectors have launched intense campaigns to assess the vulnerability of their equipment, and make the necessary adjustments to prevent failure.

The NIRC reports that 99 percent of the switches in the U.S. Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) owned by large companies were Y2K ready in June. Achievement of 100 percent readiness is expected by September.

Medium and smaller-sized phone companies have not moved so rapidly, however, according to the council's survey. These companies are not expected to complete their Y2K repairs until later in the year.

Overall, the NRIC reports that there is a minimal risk of failure in the U.S. telephone network, but found a greater chance of problems in the international telephone system. The survey's assessment of Y2K readiness internationally groups other nations according to how much phone traffic is exchanged between them and the United States. Ninety percent of U.S. international telecommunications is directed to only 53 countries. Only 20 percent of that traffic is designated as high risk, an improvement over the Y2K preparedness the council found when it conducted a similar survey in April.

Still, the remaining 10 percent of international phone traffic may become snarled when January arrives. More than 160 countries exchange calls with the United States to make up this fraction of the telecommunications flow. Sixty seven of those countries are reportedly at high risk of not achieving Y2K readiness.

Overall, the NRIC concludes that the risk of international call failure between North America and the rest of the world is minimal.

Following is the text of the statement:

(begin text)

July 23, 1999



The U.S. telecommunications industry is fast closing on its goal to be Year 2000 ready allowing uninterrupted local and long distance services on and after January 1, 2000. In its quarterly report to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Network Reliability and Interoperability Council (NRIC) announced that, based on surveys with telecommunications companies, the industry is expected to achieve Year 2000 readiness late in the 3rd quarter, 1999.


As of June 1999, approximately 99 percent of the switches in the U.S. Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), owned by large, Local Exchange Carriers (LECs), were Y2K ready. At its April 1999 meeting, the NRIC reported that major Inter-Exchange Carrier (IXC) switches were virtually 100 percent Y2K ready. The NRIC reported on July 14 that 98 percent of the components of IXCs' non-switched networks have been made Y2K ready and that 97 percent of the IXCs' network and IS applications have also been made Y2K ready. The NRIC reported that September is the current target for large LECs and IXCs to be 100 percent Y2K ready.

While mid- and small-sized LECs trail their larger, LEC counterparts in achieving Y2K readiness, the NRIC reported its continuing expectation that most mid- and small-sized LECs will be Y2K ready in the third and fourth quarter, 1999. To supplement the NRIC's efforts and to get more insight into the readiness of these LECs, the FCC last month issued a formal request, asking for confirmation on their individual Y2K readiness.

In addition, this month the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) began a state-by-state Y2K readiness assessment of mid- and small-sized LECs and expects to have its results sometime in September. The U.S. Telecommunications Association (USTA) has taken the initiative to poll key members for their Y2K readiness status, as well. A summary of these reports will be presented at the next scheduled NRIC meeting in October 1999.

The NRIC also reported that telephony processing was not expected to be affected by the century date change based on industry testing by the Telco Year 2000 Forum and the Alliance for telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS). Their joint report revealed virtually no Y2K problems in remediated components.

The report also stated that the industry's voice and data transmissions as well as Operations Support Systems (OSSs) are expected to function normally and that there is no indication of pockets of non-compliant network or support systems in the U.S. The NRIC reported that the risk of failure of the domestic PSTN is minimal and expressed confidence in the network. As a result of its findings, NRIC indicated no further testing of these network elements is warranted.

The NRIC's interoperability testing sub-committee reported its conclusion that a Y2K- ready network provider's equipment will not fail to operate when connected with a non-Y2K- ready network provider's equipment due to a change in date.

In addition, the report also stated that potential Y2K impacts in non-Y2K-ready networks would not affect the networks with which they connect.

The NRIC went on to report that, on or after January 1, 2000, a non-Y2K-ready network may experience problems such as: limited service or call blocking caused by the degraded performance of its network; problems in billing; problems with maintenance tools such as date comparison errors in search results or activities not started; and problems with operator interfaces that may experience incorrect displays of date or day of the week information.


The NRIC was advised by the ATIS Network Reliability Steering Committee (NRSC) that while looking across the entire telecommunications network, both the number of outages and the aggregated outage index (a measure of impact on customers) remain within control limits. Outages attributable to "procedural (human) errors" continue to be a major concern.

The NRSC has just published their report on this subject, "Procedural Outage Reduction: Addressing the Human Part," which is available on the ATIS web site at http://www.atis.org/atis/nrsc/nrscinfo.htm.

Increasingly, the NRSC reported, telecommunications in the U.S. are characterized by interconnection between LECs/IXCs and providers of services such as cellular, wireless, cable, ISPs and paging companies. In order to maintain and improve telecommunications reliability, the NRSC is developing recommendations that could be used to conduct a trial of outage reporting beyond the LECs/IXCs and Competitive Access Providers (CAPs) covered by the original outage-reporting requirement. This trial would allow service providers to assess service outage or service degradation situations for non-wireline services. Further, the NRSC is updating its network reliability "best practices" from NRIC II so that they can be used by telecommunications providers not covered by the original practices.


Based on input from various public and private assessments over the past quarter, the NRIC reported the risk profile of international traffic to and from the United States in the year 2000 has improved. With 90 percent of U.S. international traffic (29B Minutes of International Telecom Traffic or MITT) to and from 53 countries, only 20 percent of that traffic currently remains at high risk of non-completion on or after January 1, 2000. Since the NRIC's April report, 30 percent of this total traffic has moved from the high risk to the low risk category resulting in a current total of 51 percent of this international calling being reported as low risk. The remaining 10 percent of the U.S. international traffic (3B MITT) is to and from 166 countries, and 67 of those countries remain at high risk of not achieving Y2K readiness. Overall, the NRIC reported its testing indicated the risk of international call failure between the North American region and other World regions is minimal. Network congestion, however, may be an issue at the century date change.

The NRIC's report went on to state that the "perception of risk analysis" in the international community may be more a measure of communication about Y2K rather than a true status of Y2K readiness. More specifically, the NRIC stated that a lack of information from a country does not, in and of itself, indicate no or poor compliance. It may just mean there is a lack of information. The NRIC believes that several countries may privately be doing more to become Y2K ready than they wish to share publicly. To get a better assessment of these high risk areas, the North American test group of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) task force, in cooperation with the NRIC, has begun focusing their testing on those countries that are viewed as high risk.


The NRIC report also provided insight on the readiness of customer premises equipment (CPE) and systems that interface with the PSTN. Since its last report, the Council reported it had found no major problems or industry-wide issues that cannot be handled with planning including 911 call processing. The report stated that while most private data networks may require fairly extensive upgrades, software upgrades, which are most common, can often be distributed through a company's internal network while firmware upgrades sometimes require CPE to be returned to factories for appropriate upgrades. As a result, the NRIC report pointed out that individual user assessment and testing is extremely important.

In the three months since its last report, NRIC has found that 34 percent (up from 10 percent reported in the previous quarter) of Public Safety Answering Positions (PSAPs), utilized by local governments in responding to 911 calls, have achieved Y2K readiness. In addition, 47 percent of the remaining PSAPs are in the process of achieving Y2K readiness.

While this is an improvement, the NRIC has recommended that non-compliant PSAP owners take immediate action to achieve Y2K readiness, that telephone companies begin sharing appropriate data to help these PSAP owners achieve Y2K readiness and that the FCC begin promoting the availability of funding for municipalities with limited financial resources. It was also reported that the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) has done a survey of PSAP's Y2K readiness and their data indicated 91 percent of PSAPs across the nation will be Y2K ready by January 1, 2000. At the NRIC meeting, it was reported that FCC Commissioner Michael Powell had sent letters to directors of emergency services in each state to raise their awareness of the Year 2000 issue and the potential impact the century date change might have on PSAPs.


In its report, NRIC also reviewed industry-wide Y2K contingency planning efforts. In a Contingency Planning Workshop, conducted on April 27, 1999, for the telecommunications industry, the NRIC collaborated with the U.S. Telephone Association (USTA) to provide specifics on awareness and understanding of Y2K contingency planning. The NRIC also reported that this committee had developed a set of Contingency Planning Guidelines that were available on the NRIC web site (http://www.nric.org).


In conclusion, the NRIC reported the U.S. telecommunications industry continues to effectively approach Y2K readiness and will achieve that readiness in advance of the turn of the century. In addition, the NRIC fully expects the PSTN will continue to reliably function, interoperate and interconnect on and after January 1, 2000.

To provide a public forum on the telecommunications industry's Y2K readiness, the NRIC will co-sponsor a Communications Forum with the IEC on August 5, 1999 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Specifics regarding this conference can be found at http://www.iec.org. Information regarding each of the NRIC sub-committee presentations will be posted on the NRIC web site (http://www.nric.org). Information on other NRIC activities associated with general network reliability can be found at http://www.atis.org/atis/nrsc/nrscinfo.htm.

-- flb (
fben4077@yahoo.com), July 27, 1999



That is worse than trying to read all caps. Sorry.

-- flb (fben@yahoo.com), July 27, 1999.

Gut still says, it will be the first to crash and burn. No proof ,just gut.

-- FLAME AWAY (BLehman202@aol.com), July 27, 1999.


-- Hoffmeister (
hoff_meister@my-deja.com), July 27, 1999.


-- Hoffmeister (hoff_meister@my-deja.com), July 27, 1999.

George, you know who's heading up that interoperability task force. Why it's your good buddy Armstrong. Funny it doesn't seem he's so worried by comm failures by the looks of this report. Comments George? Don't worry, I won't wait for any answers from you for I KNOW that they won't be forthcoming.

-- Maria (anon@ymous.com), July 27, 1999.

Marma, I have to earn some money and can't give a full answer right now re this happy-face report for consumption of our unbelievably denying hunck-dory America. Still, as busy as I am, let me try this first shot at it.

(1) I never mentioned Mr. armstrong. I don't know him. He is not my buddy. I did mention Mr. A. John Pasqua, AT&T's y2k czar and I did quote his serious concerns re LECs, third party compliance, and foreign unreadiness for y2k. He specifically discussed widespred "high risk" and the request made for State Dept. help. So here we have two different, somewhat contradicting, opinions from two top- level knowledgeable people.

(2) This report is NOT as optimist as it tries to sound. Otherwise none of the following concepts should have been included (I may miss some other important stuff but I can't take away more than a few short minutes from my work today):

(a) this report talks about "readiness" NOT "compliance". And actually they are not even quite "ready" yet. There is some key "later-this-year" stuff, plus "continuos expectations" which could turn out to be dangerous wishfull thinking at this late stage of the y2k game. The reported medium and small size LECs readiness for 4Q/99 shouldn't make anybody feel comfortable. What about full-blown thorough testing, would that be in 1Q/2000? On-line? Live?

(b) Only "20% of international traffic is at high risk", plus an additional "10% of international traffic that may become snarled" says this report. Looks pretty smooth doesn't it? If we can believe this report, it acknowledges that 30% of international calls will be screwed up. That really should make everybody feel comfortable. Now these percentages could be misleading, still, because if 30% of international calls are in a bad shape its beacuse there are countries way way behind remediation ("high risk"). How important are these countries? For example, trade-wise Brazil is important. Defense- wise and politically, Russia is important. Would this state of things mean that incoming calls originated in these such countries would be seriously jeopardized? Because if a call doesn't take off from its point of origin it never makes it no matter how good a shape the rest of the network is in. Brazil's Telebras is a state-owned phone monopoly they are trying to privatize there. Needless to say phones in Brazil are in terrible mess as they are today. Y2K remediation progress is unknown. Is it any better for Russia? What about Indonesia, India, Argentina? The report says loud and clear that "No info is good info" without even attempting to explain the reasoning behind such daring approach.

(c) then we have this report's acknowledgment of "limited service or call blocking caused by degraded performance of (US) networks, problems in billing and maintenance, problems in operator interfaces..." Does that also justify the happy face presented elsewhere?

(d) and of course as there won't be enough time or resources for the thorough testing really required, this report makes room for "outages attributable to human error wich continue to be a major concern". Sure enough. Everything will work perfect BUT... Funny they didn;t mention terrorist attacks, solar flares, and/or cyberterrorism.

(e) and "network congestion may be an issue" says this report.

(f) "admittedly PSACs are NOT in good shape" says this report.

So it's a slick report allright, but not really optimistic if you read it well enough. Take care and let's live in peace, O.Kay?

-- George (jvilches@sminter.com.ar), July 28, 1999.

Marmmmmmmmmmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, where aaaaarre yoouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu?????

-- George (jvilches@sminter.com.ar), July 29, 1999.

George, I've just gotten hit with some quick turnaround stuff but here goes.

1) Armstrong is CEO of AT&T. Once again I had no clue on the context of your questions. You just said AT&T is worried. I assume that meant Armstong. Your link didn't work, so I couldn't see the quotes. Further I said I didn't know about the progress of foreign countries. I don't work for any foreign countries. Do you? Not knowing the context of John Pasqua's comments you can't conclude anything, George. What does he mean by High. Yeah, it's a simple enough word but I don't have the data that he has so I can't make the same judgement.

2a) Let me translate this since I do know. Readiness is equivalent to compliance in this context. I can see you didn't research the LECs. Ok I'll give it to you but don't take my word for it, find out for yourself. There are about 1200 LECs in the US but only 8 of them carry 95% of the US customers. The remaining (some 1192) are small companies servicing 5% of the population. Further, these small LEC only need to replace some equipment which can be done within the months remaining. Now if you live in one of these rural areas, I suggest you contact you LEC to ensure they are remediating.

2b) Once again I don't know about progress in foreign countries, there fore I can't comment. I won't speculate. But I do know that the comm with Russia specifically for defense doesn't use AT&T. There are military sats and direct lines for that comm.

2c) Can't answer but these problems (IMO) would not be widespread. Rest assured the billing systems are remediated.

2d) Why do you continue to question "thorough testing"? We have tested the remediated systems more than any other software put out to production. Since our testing has been so extensive, the only thing left to question is human error. Give me an example of human error that would cause these systems to fail. What additional testing do you suggest. They didn't mention cyber or terrorists attacks because we already have "firewalls" and isolated systems. We have security mechanisms in place today to prevent access from terrorists. Please answer this one, I would like to know.

2e) Congestion comes from everyone in a particular time zone, lifting their handset to see if they have dial tone all at one time. Yes it's a concern. The system can't handle everyone doing it at the same time. You will get circuits busy try again.

2f) Don't know about this.

No George it is optimistic, You're just a glass is empty kind of guy. Now you want to live in peace???? After you told your pack of wolves in the other thread to attack???? Yeah right. Bite me.

-- Maria (anon@ymous.com), July 29, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ