FCC Fines CenturyLink $16M, Intrado Communications $1.4M For Actions During Massive 911 Outage

Last month the Federal Communications Commission ordered Verizon to pay $3.4 million for failing to alert authorities of a preventable programming error that left nearly 11 million people in seven states without access to emergency services for six hours in 2014. While Verizon’s fine was decidedly hefty, it pales in comparison to the $16 million penalty the agency just levied against CenturyLink for the same 911 outage.

The FCC announced today that CenturyLink will pay a record $16 million, while Intrado Communications will pay $1.4 million to resolve investigations that the companies failed to meet their emergency call obligations in the affected service areas.

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

During the April 2014 outage, CenturyLink [PDF] was responsible for 65 PSAPs routing emergency calls for all counties in Washington state, six counties in Minnesota and two in North Carolina.

Intrado Communications [PDF], at the time of the outage, was responsible for five PSAPs in Florida, South Carolina and Pennsylvania.

As part of today’s settlement with the FCC, both companies 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, CenturyLink and Intrado will be required to provide improved oversight over their 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 6,600 emergency calls – some reportedly involving domestic violence, assault, car accidents, a heart attack, an overdose and an and an intruder – in Washington state, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, California, Minnesota, and Florida went unanswered.

FCC Fines CenturyLink/Intrado $17.4M for Multi-State 911 Outage [Federal Communications Commission]