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Federal Communications Commission

Opening Remarks (as prepared for delivery)

Wireless Telecommunications Bureau's Public Forum
on the Year 2000 Problem and Public Safety

Washington, DC
June 1, 1998

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of Chairman Kennard and my colleagues on the 8th Floor, I welcome everyone to the FCC's first public forum on the issue of the Year 2000 Problem and its potential impact on the various telecommunications industries. I would also like to take a moment to recognize Clay Hollister of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Chairman of the Emergency Services Working Group of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, and other guests from the public safety community.

As most of you probably you know, many automated and intelligent systems were not designed to take into account the millennial date change that will occur on January 1, 2000. And while computer and technology experts have not been able to ascertain the total likely effect of this problem, one thing is certain: the Year 2000 Problem, or so-called "Millennium Bug," has the potential to affect every industry within the telecommunications sector. In other words, radio and television broadcast, cable television, wireline telephony, terrestrial wireless, and satellites could experience disruptions and failures in the year 2000. Our collective failure to avert significant network and system failures could be calamitous.

One area of profound concern to the FCC is the public safety subsector. The prompt and continuous provision of public safety services, including, but not limited to, those of police, fire, ambulance, and other emergency service organizations, may be threatened by the Year 2000 Problem. Accordingly, we have convened this forum to raise awareness of the Year 2000 Problem, to assess the pace and extent of the implementation of remedial actions, and to seek and communicate solutions to all interested parties. At bottom, we have assembled all of today's wireless public safety participants with one objective in mind -- to ensure that all is being done to avoid any serious disruptions or failures in public safety communications service.

Although we are aware that many entities in the wireless telecommunications community have already acted to address this situation, we are concerned that others may not have taken the necessary steps to prevent system failures. As the FCC Defense Commissioner and Chairman of the Telecommunications Working Group of the President's Council of Year 2000 Conversion, I am particularly concerned and motivated to ensure that the integrity and continued operations of the nation's critical communications infrastructure is preserved and that whatever disruptions occur do not lead to calamitous outages and failures. Time is of the essence -- there are only 579 days till January 1, 2000.

Today's public safety forum is emblematic of the seriousness with which the FCC takes its responsibility to ensure that the Year 2000 challenge is successfully met. As part of the Commission's sector outreach initiative, the FCC is engaged in activities divided into three distinct but interrelated operational modes: (i) outreach and advocacy; (ii) monitoring and assessment; and (iii) regulatory actions and contingency planning. This forum is a significant part of this triad of activity. The FCC has also been working closely with other Federal departments and agencies on the Year 2000 Problem. For example, the FCC is a full participant on the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion. The efforts of this government-wide group are detailed in a special Internet Web site located on the World Wide Web at <http://www.y2k.gov>. The FCC has also been actively working, through its internal Year 2000 task force, to coordinate internal Year 2000 compliance efforts and bureau outreach to the telecommunications community on this issue. The FCC's Year 2000 page on the Internet, located at <http://www.fcc.gov/year2000/>, serves as a resource center concerning the Y2K problem and the telecommunications community.

Without a doubt, it is critical that the U.S. telecommunications community -- the FCC and the industry alike -- take prompt, comprehensive and effective action to address the Year 2000 problem. Clearly, our national well-being is dependent upon the reliability of all the nation's telecommunications networks, including those of the wireless public safety community; and government and industry must work together to ensure that whatever disruptions occur do not lead to widespread outages and failures.

Thank you for everyone's particiaption today. I look forward to the discussion.