If the phones go down, the West goes down. It's as simple as that. So, when Citicorp publicly criticised the telecommunications industry, it called attention to the problem. One of its criticisms: suppliers will not give straight answers. The British phone company, BT, did not have much to say that was comforting.
This story appeared in COMPUTERWEEKLY NEWS (Oct. 23).
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. . . Citicorp claimed suppliers had also provided nebulous, misleading and incorrect information. . . .
Citicorp also wants specific assurances from suppliers that their products and services will work through the millennium, with users given access to suppliers' data so that they can verify this for themselves. At the conference the bank put forward a comprehensive checklist of communications systems which could be hit by the millennium bomb, covering voice, access, E-mail/ Internet networks, multimedia, private circuits, security, local area networks, desktops and datacentres.
BT, the UK's largest telecoms supplier, gave a cautious reaction to Citicorp's proposals. [BT official Mili] Lewis said her firm had a contractual obligation to deliver a service to Citicorp. And if it was unable to provide that service in the year 2000, just as at any other time, it would probably be in danger of going out of business. "The year 2000 is business as usual," said Lewis. "If anyone is going to ask questions about the year 2000, then they might as well ask questions every time we touch the network."
She added that BT was reliant on other companies, such as Cable & Wireless, to ensure their systems were millennium compliant. But it could not ask for proof of compliance. "Nobody can guarantee that date fixes will work. Software never comes with a guarantee - it comes with a service contract," she said.
BT, having just appointed a new manager, Grahame Reid, for the next stage of its £400m year 2000 conversion programme, is eventually likely to be using close to 1,000 staff on the project. But it remains concerned that, no matter what efforts it makes, other worldwide telecoms operators also need to work in harmony to avoid disruption to international calls.