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‘Completely Unacceptable’ CenturyLink Network Outage Prompts $500,000 FCC Fine

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A December 2018 CenturyLink network outage has prompted the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to fine the telco $500,000.

In this week’s order, the Commission’s enforcement bureau said its consent decree and the fine resolves its investigation into the outage. The CenturyLink network outage lasted about 37 hours.

The lengthy outage impacted CenturyLink’s delivery of some 911 calls.

The outage, which happened on Dec. 27, also affected some Verizon customers. Restoration of services began that day and network traffic was normal again on Dec. 29.

The FCC launched its investigation into the outage in early January 2019. Chairman Ajit Pai called the CenturyLink network outage “completely unacceptable.”

Faulty Network Equipment

When contacted, CenturyLink sent the following statement:

“The December 2018 event was caused by faulty network equipment from a third-party vendor that prevented CenturyLink from delivering a small number of 911 calls in Arizona. We quickly took steps to prevent the issue from recurring. We know that when someone calls 911, seconds count and we take that responsibility seriously.”

CenturyLink's Jeff Storey

Lumen’s Jeff Storey

After the outage, Jeff Storey, CenturyLink’s CEO, said the outage could have been a lot worse. The fact that CenturyLink hadn’t integrated its network in the aftermath of acquisitions like Level 3 Communications lessened the impact of the outage, which affected voice, IP and transport services.

“A lot of companies come in and integrate everything together, and make one platform … and we don’t do that,” he said. “We segment our network because our network is so large, so significant that we want to have it segmented because things happen. We operate a segmented network.”

Storey also said the outage affected “a relatively small percentage” of CenturyLink’s customer base, but it was a “significant outage and something that we did not like.”


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