Verizon To Pay $3.4 Million For Not Notifying Officials Of Massive 911 Service Outage

In April 2014 nearly 11 million people in seven states lost access to emergency services when a software programming error resulted a six-hour long 911 outage. The Federal Communications Commission determined in October that the lengthy outage could have easily been prevented, and today the agency began placing the blame by fining Verizon $3.4 million for failing to alert authorities.

The FCC announced [PDF] today that Verizon agreed to the $3.4 million settlement to resolve an investigation into the company’s role in failing to meet its emergency call obligations in its affected service areas of California.

The Verizon portion of the outage affected nearly 750,000 California residents in nine counties who were unable to reach a live operator at 13 emergency call centers in the northern portion of the state. The FCC says that its investigation revealed that 62 wireless emergency calls failed in that area during the outage.

According to FCC regulations, service providers like Verizon are required to alert Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP) – the centers that field 911 calls – when an outage occurred.

Verizon argued that it wasn’t notified by the contractor responsible for the area until after the outage was resolved.

Still, according to the FCC decree [PDF], the company “acknowledges that it is responsible for complying with applicable Commission rules regardless of any alleged failures by its subcontractors.”

As part of today’s settlement with the FCC, Verizon will adopt a robust compliance plan, developed in coordination with the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, that will include implementation of appropriate risk management processes in the rollout of Next Generation 911 services.

Additionally, Verizon will be required to provide improved oversight over its Next Generation 911 subcontractors in order to maintain up-to-date information for emergency call centers, and to coordinate with emergency call centers to periodically review the company’s outage notification procedures.

The massive 911 outage began in the late hours of April 9, 2014, when calls that couldn’t be routed through the PSAP in Colorado should’ve been rerouted to a PSAP in Miami. However, a coding error meant that the system in Colorado had no idea that there was a problem. So instead of going to Miami, thousands of call went nowhere.

In all, the FCC says 5,600 emergency calls in Washington state, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, California, Minnesota, and Florida went unanswered.

Verizon Agrees to $3.4 Million Settlement To Resolve 911 Outage Investigation [Federal Communications Commission]