129 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2012
Date Written: March 1, 1999
I was the Deputy Director of the FCC Y2K Task Force at the time. I am uploading the paper because it is not longer available at the FCC.GOV website.
We are pleased to report on the status of Y2K remediation in the communications industry. This report covers five industry sectors: wireline telephone, wireless telephone, cable television, broadcast television and radio, and satellite. In addition, we have special sections dedicated to the international telephone network and emergency services.
Perhaps of all of these networks, the most critical to the nation is the wireline telephone network. Telephone companies around the world provide critical services to their customers.Whether it is completing an emergency phone call or transferring trillions of dollars in electronic fund transactions, we rely upon the telephone network to operate smoothly and seamlessly. As we approach the millennium, it is imperative that all aspects of the telephone network, as well as all communications systems upon which we rely, are reviewed for problems stemming from the “date-rollover” problem or “Y2K.” The goal of this Report is to help define the problems posed to communications companies and consumers by the Year 2000 date rollover, to explore how pervasive those problems are, and to identify industry progress in addressing those problems.
Simply put, the Y2K problem is caused by a “shortcut” used in many computers and microchips to conserve memory space. In order to conserve scarce memory, programmers used two digits to reflect the year. For example, the year 1972 would be stored as “72.” As a result, computers, microchips, and software that use a twodigit year are at risk of recognizing “00” as the year 1900 and not the year 2000. If a program is set to act in a certain way, at a certain time, and it thinks that it is the year 1900, it may perform incorrectly or stop working altogether.
The telephone network is vast and complex. Many different companies own and operate different parts of the network and must work together to complete a call from point A to point B. Any single call could employ telephone, wireless telephone and satellite services. To transmit each and every call, automated and intelligent machines and systems make calculations for the most efficient path to take, out of seemingly limitless combination of services and operators. To provide this robustness the network necessarily consists of millions of interconnected parts and hundreds of million of lines of computer code. Each of these must be checked for possible Year 2000 problems.
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Keywords: FCC, Y2K, Telecommunications, Reliability, Networks, Cable, Broadcast, Wireless, Common Carrier, Internet, Broadband, Powell, Communications, Critical Infrastructure
JEL Classification: L96, K23,
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation