How Far To Go

By Caron Carlson  |  Posted 2004-10-04 Print this article Print

?"> How far to go?

The fcc did not go so far as to prohibit all network vulnerability data from reaching the public—only that the information wont reach the public via the FCC. Despite the stated fears about terrorism, the decision has no impact on what carriers can tell their customers—or anyone else. Typically, per contract terms, network operators inform enterprise users about the nature and circumstances surrounding service outages, and spokespeople for Verizon, Qwest, AT&T Corp. and Sprint Corp. said the FCCs new policy will not affect that outreach.

"The public and the FCC are very different from the enterprise customer," said John Polivka, a Sprint spokesperson in Dallas, adding that "due diligence" requires Sprint to inform customers of the circumstances surrounding an outage, including the cause, if available. "Theyre sitting on top of the IT network already," Polivka said.

As for AT&T, "the new FCC reporting rules dont change our customer notification process," said Andy Backover, a spokesperson in Bedminster, N.J., confirming that his company provides enterprises with the cause of outages. "If we shared information with customers, its not like theyre going to share that information with others."

Lawyers who negotiate contracts for large enterprises agreed carriers that face meaningful competition will not be inclined to stop providing relevant data, including the cause of outages, to enterprises. Some said that even where competition is not robust, carriers have an interest in being candid with their largest customers.

"We may not be able to satisfy every customers innate curiosity about the cause of an outage," said Jim Blaszak, a partner in the Washington firm of Levine, Blaszak, Block & Boothby LLP. "But if public disclosure would increase the odds of terrorist attacks on the telecom infrastructure, I dont think the enterprise would be happy about that."

For smaller enterprises that dont wield as much leverage, the hope remains that the government will rediscover the benefit of making at least some outage data available.

"I still think the countrys reeling from 9/11. Hopefully, over time, we can bring that pendulum back a little bit to get a little balance," CCS Harris said. "Im grateful to the FCC and the [DHS] for protecting us from the terrorists. Im looking for a little protection from the carriers as well."


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