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Lumen, T-Mobile Affected

FCC, States Investigate Widespread 911 Outages

The FCC "has already begun investigating the 911 multistate outages that occurred [Wednesday] night to get to the bottom of the cause and impact," Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement Thursday. Authorities in affected states are asking questions, too. At least four states -- Texas, Nebraska, Nevada and South Dakota -- experienced 911 calling problems, said state officials and news reports.

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A light pole installation severed Lumen’s fiber line, causing an outage for some customers in Nebraska, Nevada and South Dakota on Wednesday, said the carrier’s spokesperson: The third-party installation was “unrelated to our services.” The company restored all services in about 2.5 hours, said the company rep: “Our techs identified the issue and worked hard to fix it as quickly as possible.”

In Texas, T-Mobile customers in Del Rio and Kilgore couldn't make 911 calls, said Andrew Friedrichs, executive director of the Texas Commission on State Emergency Communications. “Del Rio reported that they were aware of an outage with” T-Mobile “affecting the ability to reach 911,” he emailed. T-Mobile calls started dropping around 7:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday, the 911 official said. The carrier’s customers could text but not make voice calls to 911 until about 10 a.m. CDT Thursday, he said. The issue wasn’t with the city’s systems and other wireless carriers weren’t affected, Friedrich said. The Del Rio Police Department reported the outage on Facebook at about 8 p.m. CDT Wednesday.

Our third-party vendor had some issues that they resolved,” said a T-Mobile spokesperson, declining to elaborate.

The South Dakota outage lasted from about 8 to 11 p.m. CDT, the state’s Department of Public Safety said Thursday. The state’s emergency system is now fully operational, it said. “The State 9-1-1 Coordinator was in constant and extensive communication with the state’s 9-1-1 service vendor, Lumen, and the state’s 28 9-1-1 dispatch centers.” Text-to-911 wasn’t affected, it said. “Although some calls may not have gone through, the system allows dispatch centers to identify the phone number of callers and return those calls.” The 911 coordinator “remains in communication with Lumen to isolate the cause but assures the public of the redundancy in the system.” A department spokesperson said it hasn’t been determined if the outage primarily affected T-Mobile customers.

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission is "gathering information on the situation," Commissioner Chris Nelson emailed Thursday. The outage appeared to be “limited to certain carriers” in South Dakota, he said. “Certainly, we are concerned about any 911 outage as we gather facts on what happened and whether the [PUC] has any jurisdiction regarding the failure.”

The Nebraska Service Commission asked for answers from carriers including Lumen on the outage's cause, a PSC spokesperson said. Some Nebraska callers experienced “sporadic” disruptions Wednesday night, said the spokesperson: The problems weren’t statewide and not all carriers were affected.

Las Vegas police reported 911 problems at about 7 p.m. PDT. The Metropolitan Police Department said on Facebook that landline calls didn’t work, though it could see numbers from mobile calls and would call back. The outage also affected calls to the department’s nonemergency number, but text-to-911 was working, it said. In a 9:05 p.m. update, the department said all 911 and nonemergency calls were working again. “All of the individuals who called during the outage have been called back and provided assistance.”

When you call 911 in an emergency, it is vital that call goes through,” said Rosenworcel. The FCC said in a tweet Thursday morning that it was looking into the incident.

The incident "again highlights ... that our 911 systems are critical telecommunications services in dire need of being updated," said the National Emergency Number Association. It's "important for all the responsible parties to conduct a thorough investigation to understand what happened and why, so we can learn what needs to be changed and reduce the likelihood of future outages," NENA said. The group also pointed to the incident as a reason for Congress to fund next-generation 911 deployment (see 2310040043).