Misinformation Bigger Threat Than Reality Of Y2k 'Problem'

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The much-anticipated moment of the last five years is now 365 days away. No, not the millennium celebration; rather, what the millennium will do to our computers!

I would like to pass on some reminders and tips to help you prepare.

First, we must remember that the Y2K technology problem most likely will not cause a national emergency, as some have predicted. There will be problems, though many of them will be caused not by the "bug," but by misinformation, overreaction, or panic.

The best prevention is prudence. It's best to be well-informed, to prepare for possible problems, and, if you use computers, to make sure your systems are Y2K-complaint. Because small businesses tend not to have the money to test their systems, they have become the biggest risk group for Y2K snafus.

For economic reasons alone, owners must not only check their systems, but follow up by asking companies with which they do business whether compliance has been achieved. If a vendor or buyer has computer problems, on can imagine the countless billing problems alone! A little preventative planning before January 1, 2000 could save potential headaches down the road.

Two key items to remember: the Y2K problem lurks in computer chips embedded in systems that rely on reading the year to operate correctly. Home appliances -- like your microwave oven -- operate on a much simpler system and should not be affected.

With that said, there are some potential problems elsewhere that may arise from this glitch. The threat that the Y2K bug may crash the computer systems of phone companies, emergency services, financial systems, and even the nation's power grid, does raise legitimate concerns.

The good news is that there are solutions to these problems, and companies in much of the nation's private sector are assessing and reprogramming their systems. The federal government, too, has begun to reprogram, but still has much work to do.

In order to better prepare, there are several resources you can visit on the World Wide Web. here are a few I recommend:

  • The Senate Special Committee on the Y2K Technology Problem at www.senate.gov/~y2k. This site contains up-to-date information on Committee activity as well as links to many government agency Y2K sites. Here you can find information to help yourself, or simply follow how a particular agency is doing on its own Y2K compliance.
  • The White House Council on the Y2K Conversion at www.y2k.gov. This site allows you to follow the White House efforts to help the private sector become Y2K-compliant. The site breaks down private industry by sectors and provides informational links for those sectors. This is an excellent site for small business owners to find out what they need to do to prepare.
  • My Senate Web site at www.senate.gov/~kyl/y2k.htm. As a member of the Y2K Committee, I have been charged with investigating there litigation end of the Y2K problem. On my web site you will find the legislation I have been working on as well as Committee activity. You will also find links to important government Y2K web sites.

Finally, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism, and Government Information, I have also investigated Y2K issues related to the protection of our critical infrastructure. My subcommittee has held several hearings on the matter, and you can read the testimony and findings by reaching that site at www.senate.gov/~kyl/subcom.htm.

I urge you to contact my office with any Y2K concerns or comments you may have. I will be happy to send you an information packet I have prepared on the issue. Call (602) 840-1891.

by U.S. Senator Jon Kyl
R-Arizona

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