CenturyLink to Pay Record Fine for 911 Outage

The Federal Communications Commission on Monday announced a record $16 million settlement with CenturyLink and a $1.4 million agreement with Intrado to resolve an investigation into a multi-state 911 outage in which 11 million people in seven states could not reach emergency call centers for several hours.

The FCC said the CenturyLink payment is the largest 911-related fine it has ever imposed following an April 2014 outage that was unrelated to a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event.

“Delivering 911 calls is one of the most important public safety responsibilities a phone company has,” said Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau. “We will aggressively enforce the Commission’s 911 rules whenever the public’s trust in 911 is undermined.” 

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau investigated the outage – and the phone companies whose emergency call centers were affected – to determine what went wrong. The agency concluded the outage could have been averted had providers “implemented basic safeguards,” according to an FCC news release.

Last month, the FCC said Verizon had agreed to pay a $3.4 million fine and adopt a compliance plan in connection with the same multistate outage. CenturyLink and Intrado, a provider of emergency 911 services, also have agreed to adopt compliance plans, the FCC said.

“CenturyLink takes 911 reliability very seriously,” the Louisiana-based phone giant said in an email. “This outage was caused by a third-party vendor’s equipment failure that had never occurred before and we worked with the vendor to implement measures to ensure that this type of failure will not happen again. CenturyLink values customer safety and makes reliable 911 communications a top priority.”

The FCC said CenturyLink served affected emergency call centers throughout Washington, and in Minnesota, and North Carolina, while Intrado served emergency call centers in Florida, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania. 

“We will continue to work with the FCC, industry associations, our partners and our customers on our common goal of making the nation’s 9-1-1 system as reliable as possible,” Rebecca Bessette, vice president of Intrado, told Channel Partners. “For over 35 years Intrado has been committed to delivering highly reliable 9-1-1 systems and services in support of the nation’s 9-1-1 infrastructure.”

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