CenturyLink Fined $2.85 Million Following Washington 911 Outage

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CenturyLink will pay a $2.85 million fine following a 2014 911 outage that left Washington state without emergency services for six hours.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) approved a settlement between the company and commission staff following an investigation into the 911 outage. All 911 calls placed from landline, wireless and Internet-based telephones were affected.

In the order, the commission stated “we agree with staff and the company that the $2,854,750 penalty appropriately reflects the nature and extent of the violations, as well as CenturyLink’s actions in the wake of the 911 outage that gave rise to those violations. We conclude that the settlement reasonably resolves the issues raised in the complaint … and the result is consistent with the public interest.”

In January, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson called the proposed settlement “woefully inadequate,” and urged the UTC to reject the proposal and impose a maximum penalty of $11.5 million. Ferguson’s office said more than 5,600 calls to 911 failed in the state during the six-hour outage.

As part of the settlement, CenturyLink also must regularly report to the commission on 911 circuit reliability and the transition to next-generation 911.

CenturyLink admitted to violations for failing to automatically reroute 911 calls and failing to maintain and manage the 911 system as required by law. The company also was cited for failing to promptly notify 911 call centers and the UTC of the outage.{ad}

CenturyLink provides Washington’s 911 services under a contract managed by the Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division. CenturyLink outsources certain functions of the 911 network to Colorado-based Intrado Communications.

The Commission staff’s investigation determined that the outage was caused by errors originating in a data center owned and managed by CenturyLink’s 911 vendor, causing 911 calls from Washington state to fail to reach emergency services during the outage.

The outage affected six other states – California, Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and South Carolina – prompting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to conduct its own investigation. The FCC released a report on the outage in October 2014, and fined CenturyLink and Intrado $17.4 million for the multistate 911 outage.

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