FCC: Over 12,000 callers couldn’t reach 911 during AT&T outage

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The Federal Communications Commission said Thursday that a nationwide AT&T 911 outage resulted in thousands of people not being able to reach emergency dispatchers. 

On March 8, AT&T’s Mobility VoLTE 911 service, which routes 911 calls to the appropriate operators, went down for for five hours. About 12,600 unique callers could not reach 911 during that time, said the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security acting bureau chief Lisa Fowlkes, who stressed that the analysis was preliminary and might be subject to change.

{mosads}Normally around 44,000 calls go through the 911 service daily, according to numbers provided by AT&T. Fowlkes said that some of the calls were routed to AT&T’s backup call center and then were manually forwarded to 911 dispatchers. The backup center quickly became inundated and many 911 calls were dropped.

A second outage occurred on March 11, affecting a smaller amount of calls. The FCC said the two outages were unrelated.

AT&T also said that it is conducting its own analysis of the outages.

“We’ve done an extensive evaluation of the outage, which was caused by a system configuration change between our network and a certified 911 vendor, and we’re taking steps to address the issue,” said an AT&T spokesperson in a statement. “We take our obligations to our customers very seriously and will continue to work with the FCC as it completes its report on the situation.”

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill had previously pressed the FCC for more details. On Wednesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) urged the commission to shed more light on the incident.

“To the greatest extent possible, the results of the investigation should be made publically available so consumers are aware of the cause and impact of the outage,” the lawmakers wrote. “We also seek your recommendations on how future 911 wireless outages can be avoided.”

Fowlkes noted that her bureau was still seeking “to develop a more complete picture of the circumstances of each outage,” and that she wanted “additional stakeholder input.”

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