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Category: Telecommunications

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(Links to documents appear after the summary.)

Telecommunications are crucial. Modern society rests on telecommunications almost as heavily as it rests on electrical power. Modern banking could not survive in its present form without telecommunications. The question is: Can telecommunications survive without modern banking? For how long?

If the banks go down, what will replace money, especially money that today is sent by mail, credit cards, or bank wire transfers? Face-to-face transactions can use gold or silver coins or even paper money. But this does not solve the division of labor problem beyond the local community -- and maybe only the neighborhood if gasoline becomes unavailable. How will phone companies get paid? How will they pay their suppliers? This is the two-part problem that will face every industry and every public utility if the banks go down.

How real is the threat of a banking collapse? I think it is high. This is my major concern over y2k -- the concern, above all others, that can be documented today. Bank runs could destroy the banking system. Also, the breakdown of computers will surely bankrupt them. A one-week lock-out of a modern bank from the computerized capital markets will bankrupt any local bank. The banks are too dependent on computers to survive without them, just as they are too dependent on public confidence to survive without it. Both dependencies are threatened by y2k.

The threat here is a breakdown in the means of payment. A new currency system will emerge, but how fast? Months? Years? What happens during the transition? The division of labor keeps most of us alive. Without money, the division of labor collapses.

A functioning telecommunications system will be vital for the rapid development of new forms of money and new means of payment. If the Internet stays up, there is hope for the division of labor. But the telecommunications system itself relies on an extensive division of labor. If the banks go down, will telecommunications stay up long enough to enable society to replace them? On this question hinges the literal survival of millions of people.

The answer depends on a series of factors that nobody can accurately predict today: the number of noncompliant chips in switching systems, the effects of any noncompliant chips in switching systems, the actual software code that operates the many local systems that comprise the telecommunications system, the absence of international coding standards, noncompliant billing software, and the survival of means of payment. The answer is: "We do not know."

This is what makes y2k an all-or-nothing bet.

Here is what we do know. AT&T has 500 million lines of code to go through. Sprint has 100 million lines. Let us pray that the programmers can solve their problems. Our lives depend on them.

Problem: if programmers lose their jobs in 1999 because of bank runs, will they stay on the job in large cities to work on the various repairs? I don't think they will. This is the Catch-22 of a society that has entrusted its very survival to fractional reserve banks and computers.

Updated - Subject

04-Mar-97   No Dial Tone = No Western Civilization
23-May-97   AT&T's Deadline: December, 1998 (The Universal Date)
22-Jul-97   Global Crisis Looming, Says British Telecom Official
13-Aug-97   International Telecommunications Worries: No Assurances
13-Aug-97   British Telecommunications Has Formed a Y2K Committee
13-Aug-97   World Telecommunications: No Coordination Plan
22-Aug-97   Suppliers Say Little as Deadline Draws Closer
25-Aug-97   When Public Toilets Start Calling You in 2000
01-Oct-97   A Warning from a South African Y2K Project Member
02-Oct-97   Australian Telco Is $500 Million Overbudget
02-Oct-97   When They Are Fixed, They Aren't Really Fixed
07-Oct-97   Where Are the Telecoms Today? Behind
08-Oct-97   SA Telkom Y2K Project Director Replies to a Critic
10-Oct-97   AT&T May Outsource Its Legacy Code
13-Oct-97   International Communications at Risk
22-Oct-97   Citicorp Attacks Telcos for Noncompliance
23-Oct-97   Everyone Is Passing Responsibility Down the Chain
23-Oct-97   What Citicorp Wants From the Telcoms
10-Nov-97   Telecommunications Networks Are Going to Get Hit in 2000
11-Nov-97   Australia's Phone System Is at Risk
18-Nov-97   ITU Finally Gets Rolling: International Telecommunications
22-Nov-97   21 Million Lines. Finished by December 1998.
25-Nov-97   One-Third of Britain's Telcom Managers Say Y2K is No Problem
07-Jan-98   British Telecom Says: Say Goodbye to Calls to Africa and Asia in 2000
04-Feb-98   AT&T Warns About the Problem of Interconnections
21-Mar-98   Banker Testifies Regarding Telecommunications Threat
15-Apr-98   The Day AT&T's Data Network Went Down
20-Apr-98   GPS and a Hint of a Looming Disaster
20-Apr-98   GPS Rollback and Network Degradation or Collapse
30-Apr-98   FED Official Warns of Telecom Failure
30-Apr-98   FCC Chairman: Huge Problems, No Solutions Yet
01-May-98   GTE Is Spending $350 Million, Has 1,200 Y2K Workers
04-May-98   Some Telecoms Will Not Be Ready for Testing in 1998
04-May-98   Software Vendors Are Stonewalling the U.S. Government
19-May-98   Police and Fire Departments Are Behind, Says FCC
20-May-98   You Can Receive AT&T's Form Letter on Why They'll Make It
20-May-98   Sprint's 1997 Statement: Vaguely Positive and Positively Vague
20-May-98   Sprint in 1998: Guarded Language, No News
28-May-98   Companies Learn That Every System Is at Risk
12-Jun-98   Bell Canada Warns: Suppliers Could Endanger Its Operations
12-Jun-98   Government Worries About Phone Systems
15-Jun-98   AT&T's Deadline: 12/31/98
15-Jun-98   Britian's Public Utilities Call for Emergency Plans


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