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FCC Encouraged by Y2K Progress

The Federal Communications Commission in conjunction with the Network Reliability & Interoperability Council Tuesday released their completed Y2K Communications Sector Report.

The 129-page publication is intended to help define the problems posed to communications companies and consumers by the Year 2000 date rollover. The FCC explored how pervasive Y2K problems are, and to identify industry-specific progress in addressing the issues created by the programming glitch.

The FCC and NRAC accessed the Y2K preparations of wireline and wireless telecommunication companies, and broadcast radio, television; cable and satellite broadcast companies that responded to voluntary and mandatory surveys.

Overall, the commission reported that they are "encouraged by the progress being made by the larger companies to prepare for the year 2000, and are cautiously optimistic about the ability of these companies to withstand even unforeseen problems with minimum disruptions to the services they provide."

Focusing on the positive, the commission noted that "in many industries, these large companies serve the vast majority of consumers. For example, over 92 percent of people receive phone service from just 7 local telephone carriers, and the top 20 local telephone companies serve over 97 percent of U.S. customers. And while these large telephone companies cannot guarantee that customers will have no Y2K-related problems, we generally concur with their assessment that for most of their customers phone service disruptions will be minor and remedied quickly."

The commission remains concerned about the smaller telecommunications and broadcast companies. According to the report, "many of the small-and medium-size companies that have adopted a systematic approach to addressing Year 2000 have completion deadlines dangerously close to millennium rollover, leaving little time for delays from vendors or remediation as a result of problems discovered in the testing process."

Whether the small telephone, cable, broadcast or wireless, small companies have, or have not adopted a systematic approach to addressing Y2K issues may remain to be seen or heard at midnight, January 1, 2000.

Because global telecommunications rely on seamless interconnection of various domestic and foreign networks, the international dimensions of the Y2K problem are especially significant. Although U.S. telecommunications companies appear to be working diligently to prevent any Y2K disruptions, the international picture is less certain and the FCC remains concerned about whether enough is being done on a global basis to ensure that there are no significant network disruptions or failures.

NRIC conducted an assessment of international telecommunications readiness, which covered 84 of the 225 countries in the world. The NRIC study reported that the countries facing a "high risk" of network problems tend to be countries with lower "teledensity," which have a lower dependence on telecommunications services.

NRIC categorized Central and South America, the Indian Sub-Continent, and Sub-Sahara Africa as high risk. The regions of North America, Asia Pacific and Western Europe were categorized as low-to-moderate risk.