May 27, 2020

May 26, 2020

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FCC Fines Companies for 911 Outage

Earlier this week, the FCC Fined CenturyLink $400,000 and West Safety Communications $175,000 for a multi-state 911 outage that occurred in August 2018. To resolve the dispute, both companies also entered into a Compliance Plan.

The outage stemmed from an inadvertent switch configuration change, which disrupted the delivery of 911 calls in nine states. The FCC calculated that the ensuing 65-minute outage resulted in more than 460,000 calls to 911 not being delivered.

The Order notes that the outage impacted only one of West Safety’s two routing facilities. Carriers that load-balanced their traffic between the two facilities were able to complete 911 calls during the outage. Carriers that did not load-balance their traffic were impacted.

Both companies are required to (i) develop operating procedures to ensure compliance with the 911 service rules; (ii) conduct employee training; and (iii) develop a compliance manual. In addition, the FCC requires both parties to file annual compliance reports, appoint a Compliance Officer to oversee the program, and report instances of material noncompliance uncovered in the next 3 years.

A previous blog post here describes some additional common components of a Compliance Plan.

The FCC fined the parties for the outage and for failing to deliver 911 calls to a PSAP. The Commission alleged this violates a rule that requires common carriers to transmit all 911 calls to a PSAP. Similar outages in the past have also resulted in fines for not complying with the FCC’s network outage reporting (NORS) rules, but the companies appear to have complied with the NORS rules – and resolved the outage within 65 minutes – so no NORS violation occurred.

© 2020 Keller and Heckman LLP


About this Author

Wesley K. Wright, Keller Heckman, Telecommunications Lawyer, FCC Enforcement Attorney, DC

Wesley Wright joined Keller and Heckman in 2006 and practices in the areas of telecommunications law.  He assists corporate clients and trade associations with various legal and regulatory matters before the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Aviation Administration, courts and state agencies.

Mr. Wright’s practice includes private wireless licensing, FCC enforcement, and related transactional matters.  He counsels clients on internal operations and governance matters and has drafted and negotiated asset purchase agreements,...