GTE encourages customers to resist temptation to test phones during Year 2000 rollover to avoid network congestion. What telecommunication customers should know about 'ringing' in the New Year.

IRVING, Texas -- GTE is ready for the Year 2000 rollover, and is confident that its customers will enjoy the same level of reliability in its wireline, wireless, video and data networks as they do today without major disruptions.

Customers can do their part to avoid possible network congestion, or a "telephone rush hour," by resisting the temptation to test their home or cell phones at or near midnight on Friday, Dec. 31. If thousands of people in a given area pick up telephone receivers at the same time, using any telephone system in the United States, the system's capacity to complete calls will be overloaded. The same would be true at any time of the year because a telephone switch -- the computer that connects calls -- can only provide a certain amount of dial tone, and too great a demand for that dial tone would result in the system dropping calls.

In the same way that our highways are not built to handle every car on the road at the same time, telephone switches are designed to handle peak traffic that does not include every telephone being in use at once. If customers hear a "fast busy signal" or "all circuits are busy" message, it simply means that all circuits are in use, not that the telephone network has been affected by the Y2K rollover. In these instances, customers should simply wait a few minutes and try their call again.

    Consumer Tips:

  • Stay off the telephone when the New Year arrives unless you have a critical need to make a telephone call.

  • Heavy email and Internet usage can congest phone lines as much as ordinary calls. Large email messages will eat up available bandwidth. Wait, if possible, to send email. If you have to send messages, make them short.

  • Call 911 for police, medical or fire emergencies only. Do not call 911 unnecessarily.

  • If you experience other types of problems not related to these emergency services, call the appropriate telephone number for those services.

  • Have a list of non-emergency local phone numbers for police, fire and medical services in case 911 is unavailable.

  • If you pick up your telephone to make a call and do not hear dial tone, do not hang up. Simply wait a few seconds, and you will get dial tone and be able to make your call.

  • If you run a business and will be transferring or re-routing customer calls during the holidays, be sure to make a test call to ensure the correct destination telephone number is entered. Otherwise, if your customers call and get a fax machine or wrong number, they may assume it is a Y2K issue and start a panic situation.

  • If you experience telephone trouble, follow the troubleshooting tips in the front pages of your GTE telephone directory. If you are not able to isolate the problem to your equipment call GTE's Customer Care Center at: 1-800-483-1000 (residential), 1-800-483-2000 (business).

  • Customers can confirm that their local telephone line is Y2K compliant by going to GTE's Year 2000 Readiness web site at http://www.gte.com/customersupport/y2k/npanxx.htm. Additional information about GTE's Y2K preparedness program can be viewed at http://www.gte.com/y2k.

    GTE has spent nearly $400 million so that phones work when customers need them during the Year 2000 rollover and beyond. During the past 4 years, as many as 1,600 employees worked full time to bring the company into compliance. Mission critical systems have been tested during multiple drills within the company and with many equipment vendors. Between Dec. 31 and Jan. 4, GTE will have roughly 1,000 employees working at its Y2K command centers located around the world. Another 1,000 employees will be on call.

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    About GTE

    With 1998 revenues of more than $25 billion, GTE is a leading telecommunications provider with one of the industry's broadest arrays of products and services. In the United States, GTE provides local service in 28 states and wireless service in 18 states, as well as nationwide long-distance, directory, and internetworking services ranging from dial-up Internet access for residential and small-business consumers to Web-based applications for Fortune 500 companies. Outside the United States, the company serves customers on five continents. Additional information about GTE can be obtained at http://www.gte.com.

    GTE's community and philanthropic programs target excellence in education, particularly math, science, technology and literacy. GTE also supports job training, delivery of health and human services, and the arts. The company's newest program is GTE Reads, a public charity designed to create public awareness, increase fundraising and support organizations dedicated to improving America's literacy levels. GTE customers can contribute to GTE Reads by checking off a box on their bill. Others can contribute through GTE Superpages.com (http://www.superpages.com).