FCC fines US operators for 911 call failures

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Four US operators have agreed to pay a combined $6 million to settle investigations into their respective compliance with emergency call reliability rules during network outages in September 2020.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said AT&T, Intrado, Lumen (known as CenturyLink during the outage), and Verizon violated its rules regarding the delivery of calls to 911 while some also failed to follow the appropriate process for notifying call centres affected by the outage.

The FCC requires operators to notify officials of any outage lasting more than half an hour.  

FCC 911 fines

Lumen will pay more than half of the total sum, forking out $3.8 million, while Intrado will pay $1.75 million, AT&T $460,000, and Verizon $274,000. The FCC added that will all introduce new compliance plans alongside their respective penalties.

“The most important phone call you ever make may be a call to 911,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. "Sunny day outages can be especially troubling because they occur when the public and 911 call centres least expect it. It’s vital that phone companies prevent these outages wherever possible and provide prompt and sufficient notification to 911 call centres when they do occur.”

The FCC fined another US carrier, T-Mobile, $19.5 million in November for a 911 outage that lasted more than 12 hours, affecting more than 20,000 calls in the summer of 2020.

Earlier this month it emerged that some Android smartphones were being prevented from calling 911 due to a bug with Microsoft Teams, an issue which has since been resolved.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.