Year 2000 Computing CrisisTelecommunications Readiness Critical, Yet Overall Status Largely Unknown Gao ID: T-AIMD-98-212 June 16, 1998
The readiness of the telecommunications sector to address the Year 2000 problem is of crucial concern. No one--from large corporations to government agencies to families and individuals--is immune from the potential disruption of vital telecommunications services. Telecommunications technologies have helped to fuel the growth of the U.S. economy and have led to major improvements to the nation's infrastructure. The potential losses and disruptions that could arise from noncomplying telecommunications systems could be staggering. This testimony (1) describes the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure; (2) discusses the risks involved if critical components of that infrastructure are not Year 2000 compliant by the turn of the century; (3) describes the measures taken by the federal government relating to national, international, and governmental telecommunications infrastructure; and (4) presents the 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.