Koskinen Downplays Y2K Affecting Internet (Federal Computer Week)

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Uh, oh. The net must be in trouble if Koskinen downplays it.



AUGUST 17, 1999 . . . 15:40 EDT

Koskinen downplays Y2K affecting Internet

BY ORLANDO DE BRUCE (odebruce@fcw.com)


[Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]

Because the federal government is relying more on the Internet to disseminate information, most agencies have developed backup plans in case the Year 2000 computer bug interrupts the daily operation of the Internet, the federal government's Year 2000 czar said today.

John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, said the large number of participants in the Internet community make it impossible to rule out the existence of date change problems, even though the overall structure of the Internet is expected to make a successful transition to 2000.

"Overall, the Internet is a very redundant system that should continue to function even if there are Year 2000 problems,'' Koskinen said. "But the vast number of networks and companies involved in providing services to users makes it impossible to guarantee that someone, somewhere won't experience temporary problems in using the Internet that are caused by the date change.''

Koskinen, who spoke during a press conference that his office sponsored at the American Society of Association Executives in Washington, D.C., said federal agencies are required to identify in contingency plans what backup they will use if the Internet is affected by Year 2000 problems. He encouraged individuals, public agencies and the private sector to have a Year 2000 discussion with their Internet provider.

"In addition to checking to see whether your own PC is Year 2000-compliant, it makes good business sense to determine the Year 2000 readiness of your personal Internet service provider," Koskinen said.

Other speakers at the press conference included representatives from the Internet industry, including members of the Commercial Internet Exchange Association and the Internet Service Provider Consortium.

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), August 17, 1999


Cant find much at...

Commercial Internet eXchange Association


Internet Service Provider Consortium


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), August 17, 1999.


That was *exactly* what I thought when I saw the title of this thread!

My assumption would be that they will plan on using the Post Office...... [G]

-- Jon Williamson (jwilliamson003@sprintmail.com), August 17, 1999.

I came across this article this morning. It's one of the more in- depth ones I've seen about Y2K and the Net:

[Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]


Paris, Tuesday, August 17, 1999

The Internet May Be the Biggest Question Mark of Them All

---------------------------------------------------------------------- ----------

By Thomas Fuller International Herald Tribune

---------------------------------------------------------------------- ----------

As companies and governments rush to make sure their computers will not suffer meltdowns when the year 2000 arrives, experts say there is a large unanswered question in the battle against the so-called millennium bug: the effects on the world's largest and most complex computer network, the Internet.

Partly because the global network is so diffuse - no one is in charge of it - Internet specialists say it is practically impossible to know or to test whether certain parts of the system will crash, whether electronic mail that crosses the globe will be lost or suffer long delays or whether users will be able to reach World Wide Web sites that offer on-line trading and shopping in the first days of the New Year.

One thing is clear: Many of the basic elements of the Internet - components that go by names such as routers and switches - have been identified as ''noncompliant '' and thus could malfunction if they are not fixed or replaced before the new year arrives.

Cisco Systems Inc., the world's leading Internet component supplier, lists 25 products on its Web site www.cisco.com that are not compliant and a further 31 that the company does not plan on testing because it regards them as too old to be serviced. Some of these products were sold as recently as three years ago. Many are still in use.

Experts who met in Washington last month to discuss the problem say the network's key ''backbone'' components have been tested and will function but that large parts of the Internet are beyond the purview of U.S. regulators.

The state of preparedness in the United States is crucial for Internet users around the globe because an overwhelming majority of Internet traffic passes through the United States. Even e-mail sent from two neighboring countries in Asia, for instance, is often routed through the United States.

But the bottom line for Internet users outside the United States is that even if the U.S. portion of the network is running, if the machinery that links them to the network - their local ''service provider'' - goes down, they lose their access.

White House officials, who were the hosts of the Internet conference last month, are scheduled to announce their findings and recommendations Tuesday. Those who attended the meetings in Washington say the most vulnerable points of the global network are:


The large ''servers'' managed by each country that assign Internet addresses such as ''my'' for Malaysia and ''it'' for Italy. There are 252 such servers in the world, including ones that manage addresses that end in ''edu'' or ''com.''

Bill Manning, a researcher at the University of Southern California who was charged at the White House conference with tracking the readiness of these servers, said ''a good chunk'' of them were Y2K compliant but ''a good chunk of them are not.'' He declined to be more specific.


International telephone links. A recent survey by the Network Reliability and Interoperability Council, a group made up of top executives from U.S. telephone companies, found that 62 percent of countries with large volumes of telephone traffic were perceived as ''high risk'' in terms of Y2K problems. Only 18 percent were considered low risk. These are just perceptions of people in the industry - and thus not based on hard data. Nonetheless, any failure between international phone links could impair Internet service as well as the reliability of an old-fashioned telephone call.


Accounting software used by Internet service providers to monitor the usage of their customers. Noncompliant software might not affect access to the Internet but could foul up billing.


Software used to distribute passwords. Accounts could automatically expire if the computer reads the date incorrectly.


The threat of ''millennium'' computer viruses spread through the network.


Strain on the system posed by increased usage: New Year's greetings sent by e-mail and multimedia events related to the New Year on the World Wide Web could clog the network.

Vinton Cerf, senior vice president at MCI WorldCom Inc., who is known as the father of the Internet for his pioneering work on the network, said he did not anticipate ''major problems'' in the United States related to the millennium bug but that outside North America ''the risk seems higher.'' There is ''anecdotal evidence,'' he said, that some countries ''have been somewhat less attentive and concerned about Y2K preparedness.''

Y2K is a commonly used abbreviation for the Year 2000 bug. The glitch arises when computers fail to process dates beyond Dec. 31, 1999, because of the way they were programmed.

Experts say Internet-related Y2K issues have until now been overshadowed by more pressing concerns such as potential blackouts and failures of computers aboard aircraft.

''If the power grid goes out, you're going to be worried about other things than, 'Can I get my Internet connection?''' Mr. Manning said. ''People generally don't depend on the Internet for life-and-death situations. It'll be like the television going out for a while.''

Although not life-threatening, any large-scale failure of the Internet could affect the lives of millions of people, especially those doing business on the Net and those living away from their home countries.

In the event of Y2K-related failures, people who use the network to communicate with families or colleagues might not be able to do so for several days.

The same applies to overseas company offices that use the Internet to send messages and data to their headquarters.

Experts say the degree of risk for an Internet user depends in large part on the individual's Internet ''service provider,'' the company that offers access to the network, known as an ISP.

The worry is that some smaller service providers - especially those in developing countries - might not have the financial resources or technical knowledge to properly check their systems for millennium bugs.

''To my own knowledge and expectations, the packets will make it,'' said Geoff Huston, the technical manager at Australia's Telstra Internet service, referring to the bundles of data that circulate around the world delivering things such as e-mail. ''But whether the machine on the other end is doing the right thing is something I can't answer with as much surety.''

The worst-case scenario for Internet users around the world? ''We just don't know,'' said Izumi Aizu, head of Asia Network Research in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who represented Asia at the Washington meeting. ''There are too many elements that make up the Internet.''

''What will the impact be? I have no idea in the world,'' said Dave Farber, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the world's leading experts on the Internet. ''There are going to be some really strange events. There will be some places that will be cut off. They may disconnect certain countries until those countries get their act together. How long that will last I don't know. I don't think anyone does.''

Internet users may get a foretaste of Y2K confusion on Aug. 24, when, for reasons not directly related to the millennium bug, the clocks in some satellites that carry Internet traffic will reset themselves to zero. That could affect the way computers linked to the Internet register such things as financial transactions.


-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), August 17, 1999.

Diane -

Interesting. I'd just looked up and posted a link for CIX on the CSPAN/Koskinen thread. CIX don't really look like much more than a lobbying group to me. Have you seen any other items from or about them?

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), August 17, 1999.

And where can I plug in my computer if the electricity is down? Not to mention the phone lines...

-- Mara Wayne (MaraWayne@aol.com), August 17, 1999.


Good one!

"Cisco Systems Inc. ... does not plan on testing because it regards them as too old to be serviced. Some of these products were sold as recently as three years ago."

*Big Sigh*

Ain't the speed of hi-tech obsolescence wunnerful?

"Internet users may get a foretaste of Y2K confusion on Aug. 24, when, for reasons not directly related to the millennium bug, the clocks in some satellites that carry Internet traffic will reset themselves to zero. That could affect the way computers linked to the Internet register such things as financial transactions."

Aug. 24?! Oh... joy!!


Sort'a poked around the CIX web-site and thought the same thing. Y2K lean.


Lined paper pads and back-up pencils may be an appropriate communication device. Also carrier pigeons. ('Cept they require food and water).



-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), August 17, 1999.

I don't believe Cerf considered either the effect of recent presidential executive orders which essentially permit the federal protection and emergency takeover of certain critical infrastructure components, no doubt including the Internet by now if it didn't already at the time the ink was drying on those EOs. And, consider the US has been in an active state of emergency since the "Banking Holiday" of the early FDR era...


-- Ann Y Body (annybody@nowhere.dis.org), August 18, 1999.

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