NRIC meeting report

I was in Washington DC yesterday (January 14) and had a choice. I had some
free time and could either spend the afternoon at the Senate watching the
trial, or I could go over to the FCC and watch the NRIC meeting. I choose
the NRIC meeting.

The Network Reliability and Interoperability Council, chaired by Bill
Armstrong chairman of AT&T, moved along pretty quickly. Most of the
focus was on Year 2000 issues telco issues. No great surprises, like
most industries, most reports were positive were positive about the
industry. Most telephone companies in the USA are on track to completing
their Year 2000 project on time, and there are no PSTN to CPE year 2000
problems. Most of the problems were called "second-order" affects. For
example, your T1 line and demarc have no Year 2000 issues, but your router
or super-smart CSU/DSU might have some.

POTS (plain old telephone service) seemed most unaffected. In other
words a plain voice line with no options, and a Western Union 2500
telephone set. Its when you get into POTS+ services issues show up.
The phone line works, but a fax machine may print the wrong date at
the top of the fax page. 9-1-1 calls will go through, but some secondary
PSAP equipment (e.g. GIS map systems, dispatching, voice recorder
timestamping, etc) might have a year 2000 issue. A repeated theme of
the meeting was the second-order problems were the customer's responsibility,
and the customer needed to take action to fix them not the phone company.

Things were pretty much focused on traditional wireline carriers. Very
little was said about wireless, and there was no representation from new
things such as the Internet or ISPs. Bill Armstrong reported he as sent
two letters out, but received essentially no response. I'm not sure who
Mr. Armstrong sent the letters to. I know I haven't ever received one.
But I'm was amused to hear I'm not the only one who has trouble getting
information out of ISPs :slight_smile:

I'm not sure how many people on the Council realized it, but it was
interesting to watch the Internet being transformed from a convenience to
a critical component. Although neither the NRIC nor the FCC seem to know
how to communicate with the ISPs, an amazing amount of information and
contingency plans are primarily being distributed via the web. But there
seems to be no contingency plan for keeping, or restoring the web operation.
The contingency plans that do exist, currently exclude Internet service
providers unless they happen to be part of a traditional wireline facility
based provider. But even then, I've noticed the ISP NOC and the wireline
NOC's at the same provider have no contingency plan for communicating with
each other. I know, you've heard me beat that drum before.

The final part of the meeting was the 1998 annual report from the Network
Reliability Steering Committee. The full report is on the ATIS site, but
a few highlights. You should read at least the last page on the AT&T
frame-relay outage. The frame-relay part of the outage was only important
in it caused congestion on the switched network when all the remote
sites dialed up their backup lines at the same time.

This year NRSC did a root cause analysis across all their outages and found
"Procedural Errors" were the top root cause of 32% of all outages. DACS
problems are continuing to increase, with 1998 being the highest year yet.
Facility failures and CO power problems were continuing areas of concern.
The NRIC committee asked the NRSC to track if the National One-Call legislation
passed last year had any affect on the number of cable dig-ups.

The NRIC web site is <>. A number of reports and
presentations are online.