CenturyLink and West Safety Communications pay $575,000 to settle FCC probe of six-state 911 outage

CenturyLink and West Safety Communications will pay $575,000 to settle a FCC probe of the August 1, 2018 multi-state 911 outage. The outage affected parts of six states, lasted 65 minutes, and prevented 911 calls from reaching emergency operators. A Minnesota Public Utility Commission report determined that CenturyLink failed to delivery 693 emergency calls in Minnesota alone. The companies’ FCC consent decree with calls for a compliance plan and requires Centurylink to pay $400,000 and subcontractor West Safety Communications to pay $175,000. 

“[T]he $400,000 settlement with CenturyLink today does not address the repeat nature of the outages…” said FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks. “Today’s consent decree re-adopts measures previously instituted, including designating a compliance officer and developing and implementing a compliance plan reflecting industry best practices. Notably, even though the consent decree assigns fault for the outage at issue here to a subcontractor, the compliance plan contains nothing about better coordination and supervision of such parties. We should have taken stronger enforcement action here.”

Earlier this year, the FCC released the results of its investigation of another CenturyLink outage that occured in December 2018 and affected the whole country. The outage lasted 37 hours, affected as many of 22 million customers across 39 states, and blocked completion of nearly one thousand 911 calls. However, the FCC refused to fine CenturyLink for the outage or require the company to take specific remedial measures, such as network upgrades.


FCC announces settlements with Centurylink & West Safety Communications regarding 911 outage in August 2018 (FCC, Nov. 4, 2019)

Statement by Commissioner Geoffrey Starks (FCC, Nov. 4, 2019)

FCC calls CenturyLink’s 37-hour nationwide outage “completely unacceptable” (Speed Matters, Sep. 11, 2019)