Washington, D.C., July 17, 2015 – The Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau has reached a $17.5 million settlement with T-Mobile, resolving an investigation into two 911 service outages that occurred on the company’s national network last year. The separate but related outages, which together lasted approximately three hours, prevented T-Mobile customers from reaching first responders when making wireless 911 calls. As part of the settlement, T-Mobile has agreed to strengthen its 911 service procedures and to adopt robust compliance measures to ensure that it adheres to the FCC’s 911 service reliability and outage notification rules in the future.
“The Commission has no higher priority than ensuring the reliability and resilience of our nation’s communications networks so that consumers can reach public safety in their time of need,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “Communications providers that do not take necessary steps to ensure that Americans can call 911 will be held to account.”
“Americans across the country rely upon 911 in times of critical need,” said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the Enforcement Bureau. “As the federal agency tasked with ensuring the reliability of the Nation’s 911 networks, we take this responsibility seriously and will continue to work with the nation’s phone carriers to ensure that all calls for help are received by first responders and emergency personnel.”
T-Mobile’s network suffered two 911 outages on August 8, 2014. The outages together lasted approximately three hours. On average, nearly 27,400 calls per hour are placed to 911 nationwide for all providers. Both T-Mobile outages were nationwide outages, affecting almost all of T-Mobile’s then 50 million customers. Simply put, a T-Mobile customer dialing 911 during these outages would not have reached first responders.
In its investigation, the Enforcement Bureau found that T-Mobile did not provide timely notification of the August 8, 2014, outages to all affected 911 call centers, as required by FCC rules. The investigation also found that the outages would have been avoided if T-Mobile had implemented appropriate safeguards in its 911 network architecture.
To resolve the Bureau’s investigation, T-Mobile will pay a $17.5 million fine and has agreed to implement a compliance program to strengthen its 911 resilience and its 911 risk management processes.
In particular, T-Mobile will develop and implement processes to:
- Identify risks that could result in disruptions to 911 service;
- Protect against such risks;
- Detect future 911 outages;
- Respond with remedial actions, including prompt notification to affected 911 call centers; and
- Recover from such outages on a timely basis.
In addition, T-Mobile will maintain up-to-date contact information for 911 call centers and adopt a plan to notify 911 call centers during outages. The consent decree also requires T-Mobile to file detailed compliance reports with the Enforcement Bureau.
Rear Admiral (ret.) David Simpson, Chief of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau said, “This Consent Decree includes a commitment by T-Mobile not only to address risk of 911 service failure, but also to improve its 911 call center reporting and its ability to recognize, respond to, and rapidly recover from 911 disruptions.”
The Commission has adopted a number of rules intended to ensure seamless, ubiquitous, and reliable 911 service nationwide. These rules include the obligation for wireless carriers to implement 911 routing and delivery systems to ensure that 911 calls are transmitted to the appropriate 911 emergency call centers and to notify those call centers of 911 service outages lasting longer than 30 minutes.
Today’s settlement with T-Mobile represents the largest fine that the FCC has assessed against a carrier in connection with a 911 outage and it is the fourth major enforcement action involving 911 outages that the FCC has taken this year. In April, the FCC entered a $16 million settlement with CenturyLink and a $1.4 million settlement with Intrado Communications in connection with an April 2014 multi-state 911 outage that lasted for over six hours. In March, the FCC settled with Verizon for $3.4 million in connection with the same April 2014 outage.