US West completes 99 percent of Y2K systems upgrades

US West completes 99 percent of Y2K systems upgrades

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

US West Inc., which provides comprehensive telephone service to three Energy Department facilities and local service in 14 Western states, has finished more than 99 percent of its year 2000 network upgrades.

The Englewood, Colo., carrier installed new software in all but five of 1,600 network switches, mostly from Northern Telecom Inc. and Lucent Technologies Inc. of Murray Hill, N.J. Tests last year, however, showed that the public switched telephone network would probably have continued to operate in 2000 without the upgrades.

William White, executive director and chief technology officer for US West, said telephone switches record dates and times of calls but do not use the information to connect circuits.

'It's in the billing system that the data gets used,' White said. US West finished updating its billing system last year, he said.

The company has kept government users informed of its progress and has given them information needed to upgrade equipment on their premises, such as private branch exchanges. But most of that equipment is at no greater risk than the networks, White said.

'The basic function of the PBX isn't going to be affected' by the date, he said. Services such as automatic deletion of voice mail and other administrative functions might have problems, but basic call processing will likely continue unaffected whether software upgrades are made or not.

Federal users are well along in getting their portions of the telephone system ready, said Shirley Menish, director of business development for US West federal services.

The carrier's Energy customers are 92 percent finished with upgrades, she said.

US West provides telecommunications for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state, Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Energy requested an extra $2,300 in its year 2000 budget to pay cash bonuses to four US West employees working at the sites, Menish said.

The federal services division will take part in 56 hours of monitoring all US West network components between midnight on Dec. 31 and the opening of business on Monday, Jan. 3. The company will also bring up and test all internal systems over the weekend.

Users can get a taste of the 2000 rollover by calling the company's 21st Century Hotline, at 877-837-8925 within US West service areas or 303-787-2000 elsewhere. The calls are routed to a recorded message through a central office switch that has been set ahead one year.

Here to there

US West officials said the hotline demonstrates that calls can be processed in a mixed environment where some equipment is operating in 1999 and some in 2000. They said that will be the case during the three hours it will take the new year to roll across the continental United States.

The company's big worry is that everyone will pick up a phone at midnight on Dec. 31 to make sure it is still working. If everyone does, not everyone will get a dial tone.

'You can't handle everybody calling everybody,' White said. 'Don't call 911 to see if it works.'

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