Davis demands Pac Bell deliver on promised, reliable data network (CA - computer problems)

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Davis demands Pac Bell deliver on promised, reliable data network

Matthew Yi OF THE EXAMINER STAFF Oct. 21, 1999

Gov. Davis has fired off a letter to Pacific Bell's chief executive officer demanding that the company live up to its promises in providing the state a reliable data transmission network.

Pac Bell was awarded a seven-year, $929 million contract to handle the state's phone and data transmissions beginning January this year.

However, state officials say the data transmission part of the network has been failing frequently, forcing some state agencies like the Department of Motor Vehicles to shut some field offices for a whole day at a time.

In a tersely written letter, Davis charged that "instead of the "state of the art' support we were promised, the Pac Bell data transmission networks have failed repeatedly."

"This recurring disruption of vital services to the citizens of California caused by Pacific Bell's outages is completely unacceptable," the letter dated Oct. 19 said.

The governor could not be reached for more comment Thursday, because he was in London on a trade mission.

One audit by a state-hired consultant estimated the network failed more than 19,000 minutes, or nearly 320 hours between January and August.

One heavily affected agency has been the DMV, said Ken Hunt, spokesman for the state Department of General Services.

"What would happen is that the DMV would lose data," he said. "Let's say you have an appointment with a DMV office to get your vehicle re-registered and when there's a failure, that would erase all those appointments."

In some cases, the failures have been more than minor inconveniences, said Christina Polley, deputy director of telecommunications for the Department of General Services.

For example, the Women, Infants and Children program had trouble serving its clients because the network failure caused its computers to crash.

Although Pac Bell has been helpful about making the fixes, the network is old and it needs to be replaced, she said.

"The current network is a lemon. It has equipment that's about seven years old. . . . They keep patching it and bringing it up where it needs to be . . . but we need a new one," Polley said.

Pac Bell spokesman John Britton said the phone company has been keeping in close communication with the state to fix the problems.

"We've acknowledged them. . . . We've done everything they've asked for and more, at our expense," he said.

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)1999 San Francisco Examiner Page A 25

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), October 22, 1999


http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/ article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1999/10/21/MN91080.DTL

Davis Raps Pac Bell on Repeated Breakdowns
State says contract has been violated
Greg Lucas, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
Thursday, October 21, 1999
)1999 San Francisco Chronicle

Gov. Gray Davis sent a sharply worded letter yesterday to Pacific Bell complaining about repeated failures of a state data transmission system that led to cars being wrongly impounded and disrupted criminal record checks by the Highway Patrol.

Describing the phone company's performance as ``completely unacceptable,'' the Democratic governor demanded that ``California be given the attention it deserves'' as the phone company's biggest customer.

Davis' letter signals the beginning of an effort by the state to get the phone company and its partner, MCI WorldCom, to live up to the terms of its seven-year $900 million contract to operate the state phone and data transmission system.

Signed in the final month of the Pete Wilson administration, the contract forbid the state from taking any action against Pacific Bell until the phone company failed to meet its obligations for three consecutive quarters.

Because of nine months of continued data system crashes, the state says the phone company is violating the contract.

``Instead of the `state of the art' support we were promised, the PacBell data-transmission networks have failed repeatedly,'' Davis wrote in a letter to Edward A. Mueller, Pac Bell's president and CEO. ``For months, state departments and agencies have been subjected to critical disruptions caused by your data-network failures.''

Davis' letter is just the beginning. The contract allows for several key areas to be renegotiated. Based on the tone of Davis' letter those negotiations are unlikely to go well for the phone company.

Pac Bell contends that problems with the data transfers have been reduced in part by the phone company installing back-up systems at their own expense.

``We believe the issues are primarily behind us,'' said John Britton, a phone company spokesman. ``The system has been performing well. We've done everything the state has asked us and more.''

That's not how the state sees it.

``We're still having outages -- they've just put a patch over them. The network is not stable. (The back-up systems) are not a fix. It's a slap-together interim solution,'' said Tina Polley deputy director of telecommunications for the Department of General Services.

``The network they're using for the state will never be sufficient to meet the state's needs,'' she said.

Polley said the worst of the outages were between March and May of this year.

For the first six months of 1999 it took Pac Bell an average of more than 12 hours to repair outages -- a violation of its contract with the state, Polley said.

Those outages affected several key areas of state government, particularly the Department of Motor Vehicles.

An independent consultant hired to analyze the system found that from January to July 19,000 minutes of outages occurred.

The Highway Patrol had problems accessing criminal records. One department had delays in retrieving child-abuse records.

Some DMV offices had to either close early or turn away customers because license or auto registration information was not available.

The independent consultant, International Network Services, blamed some outdated equipment and ``inconsistent or inadequate processes and procedures'' for the disruptions.

Few complaints have been lodged against Pac Bell over the phone system it created -- the problems have been with data transfers, which comprise only 15 percent of the contract, Britton said.

Britton repeatedly refused to answer whether Pacific Bell would replace the current data transfer network.

``The frame network is state of the art technology,'' Britton said.

Polley did not say what sanctions or actions the state might impose for Pacific Bell's failure to meet the contract.

-- (not-here@not-really.no-way), October 22, 1999.

More tension, bickering, threats, inconveniences, downright dangers, tempers escalating, lawyers firing off their initial torpedoes -- and this is just the tiniest beginning, the tundra tip of the huge iceberg which will sink civilization ...

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), October 22, 1999.

"inconveniences, said Christina [Polley]"


-- Dave Butts (dciinc@aol.com), October 22, 1999.

the coast is toast

-- edges (turning@black.smoke), October 22, 1999.

PacBell is owned by Southwestern Bell SBC

SBC Year 2000
http:// www.sbc.com/Technology/year2000/Home.html

SBC Y2K Progress Report

We're Ready

The SBC family of companiesSouthwestern Bell, Pacific Bell, Nevada Bell, Southern New England Telephone and Cellular Oneis pleased to report that we have completed our year 2000 upgrades. All critical network components and supporting operational systems have been upgraded and tested to ensure that our service will be as reliable on January 1, 2000 as it is today.

Search SBC
http://www.sbc.com/ Search/Home.html

SBCs Interconnection and Resales Agreements in California

As of February 28, 1999, Pacific Bell has signed 72 agreements in the state of California. Following are the names of the companies with whom we have agreements:
http://www.sbc.com/PublicAffairs/OpenMarkets/ Agreements/states/CA_agree.html

-- (not-here@not-really.no-way), October 22, 1999.

"What would happen is that the DMV would lose data," he said. "Let's say you have an appointment with a DMV office to get your vehicle re-registered and when there's a failure, that would erase all those appointments."

Hey, I'm only an ex-network administrator, but this sounds as likely to be a database failure as it does a network communications problem. OR maybe it's a combination of BOTH network and database issues?

-- Greg (balzer@lanset.com), October 22, 1999.

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