When the Senate’s Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem issued its impact report last week, Bruce Webster made sure he was available for comment. The co-chair of the WDCY2K Group has made a nearly full-time occupation as the Y2K talking head of choice, commuting between Dallas and D.C. to discuss New Year’s Day 2000and his Y2K Survival Guidemaking noteworthy appearances on MSNBC and PBS’s NewsHour With Jim Lehrer. For the record, he has no intention of spending the holiday in the District.
You agree with the Senate committee’s serious concern about the Y2K readiness of state and local governments. Is D.C. the worst offender?
The District has had people come out and say, “We’re not sure we’re going to be done in time.” I applaud them for the honesty. A lot of companies and institutions won’t admit how far behind they are.
Very specifically, who in Washington, D.C., will be most affected by Y2K?
The people in D.C. who are going to be most hurt are going to be those who are most economically vulnerablemeaning dependent on city and federal assistance, living paycheck to paycheck without much financial reserve. In a city like D.C., you never know. My daily exercise used to be walking up Metro escalators that weren’t working.
What are the chances of being able to call up, say, Domino’s, to have a pizza delivered after midnight on Jan. 1, 2000?
Michael Pyle of the [Federal Communications Commission] has said that the biggest threat is everybody picking up the phone at the same time to see if they still have a dial tone, which would completely overload the system. Millennium bug or not, that kind of thing is going to jam everything up. Domino’s will probably be doing bang-up business, all things considered. You may have a two-hour wait, but I think you’ll eventually get your pizza.
Is there an upside to the Y2K crisis?
In the long term, I think there will actually be a huge economic rebound. But the main opportunity I see in it is a learning experience in how not to do things. In March of last year, there was a brief flurry of excitement when an astronomer was predicting an asteroid crossing the earth’s trajectory in 2034. My first thought was “God, I hope they start working on that before 2033.” Colin Bane