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1998-05-28 09:34:48


Companies Learn That Every System Is at Risk



A pair of regional utilities -- a phone system and a power system -- are facing a gigantic repair task. The y2k problems affect every aspect of their businesses.

This is from the RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH (May 24).

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Two of Virginia's largest service companies, Bell Atlantic Corp. and Dominion Resources Inc., have found that everything from plant operations to security and fire suppression systems has been touched by the inability of some computer systems and equipment to recognize the year 2000.

In Bell Atlantic's case, the estimated bill to solve the problems is as high as $300 million for its 13-state service area.

Dominion Resources estimates its year 2000 costs will be $100 million to $150 million, with $30 million to $50 million of that being borne by Virginia Power, a Dominion subsidiary. . . .

Bell Atlantic executives also meet regularly with their counterparts from other phone companies to make sure that interconnected networks operate when 2000 arrives.

The more Bell Atlantic looks into the problem, the more it finds that could go wrong. "It's invaded every part of the business," Patterson said.

For both utilities, the problem is not simply one of computers and computer software. Sometimes the equipment they run contains preprogrammed computer chips that are time sensitive and unable to deal with the year 2000. The chips either have to be reprogrammed or, if that's not possible, discarded.

In Dominion Resources' case, an example of this "imbedded" chip technology might be the safety equipment that monitors a power plant's boiler and signals if the boiler begins to overheat. . . .

Despite all the work Bell Atlantic has done to prepare for the new century, Patterson doesn't expect the transition to be seamless.

"Not everyone will be ready."


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