Police Officer

The FCC has proposed an $867,000 fine against Lumen Technologies for apparently failing to design and operate its 911 network in a manner capable of adequately protecting the public.

The findings — which are in a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL) — are not yet binding. The NAL informs Lumen that the FCC believes it violated the law and the proposed monetary penalty. Lumen will be given the opportunity to submit evidence and legal arguments in its defense. The FCC will consider that input “before acting further to resolve the matter.”

The NAL relates to public safety call center outages in February 2022. On February 17, Lumen suffered a nearly five-hour 911 outage at two 911 call centers in South Dakota. The FCC said that flaws in the Lumen system to notify public safety call centers prevented the call centers from being notified until days later.

Several days later, on February 22, Lumen experienced a 911 outage in a Bismarck, ND, switch.  This disrupted 911 service for more than seven hours in the state.  Lumen was only able to notify two of the 11 affected call centers in a timely manner.  Hundreds of emergency calls failed to reach public safety call centers.   

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau found “that Lumen apparently willfully and repeatedly violated FCC rules by failing to notify public safety call centers in a timely manner of both 911 outages; and by deploying a system that was insufficient to transmit all 911 calls reliably to public safety call centers in the second outage, creating a significant threat to the life and property of tens of thousands of people.”

In June, North Dakota began the transition of its 911 system to Next-Generation 911 (NG911). It will enable text, images and video in addition to audio. And, despite the findings highlighted in the NAL, Lumen is part of the project: The North Dakota Association of Counties (NDACo) selected the company to provide IP service to the state’s public safety answering points.

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