AT&T cell phone users report 911 outage, company could face FCC fine

AT&T cell phone customers across multiple states experienced a 911 outage for a few hours on Tuesday -- and, if history repeats itself, the telecom company may face a federal fine over it.

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Twitter accounts for several local fire and police departments posted about the outage, which left mobile users unable to phone the emergency number. Many agencies shared alternate phone numbers to get in contact with them.

The outages appeared to have affected regions in states including Indiana, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin, according to law enforcement department's tweets.

Landline customers appeared to have been unaffected by the outage, according to Cnet.

The cause of the outage was unclear, but AT&T did acknowledge the issue.

“Earlier this morning some wireless customers may have been unable to connect to 911. This has been resolved and we apologize to anyone who was affected,” a spokesperson in a statement to The Verge.

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This is not the first time AT&T has been involved in a 911 outage.

In June 2018, the telecommunications giant agreed to pay a $5.25 million fine to the Federal Communications Commission over two 911 outages in March and May 2017. As part of the settlement, the company also agreed to "implement proactive system changes to reduce the likelihood and impact of future 911 outages, improve processes for notifying 911 call centers of any future outages, ensure reliable 911 call completion, and regularly file compliance reports with the FCC," according to a release from the federal agency at the time.

"Such preventable outages are unacceptable.  Robust and reliable 911 service is a national priority, as repeatedly expressed by both Congress and the Commission.  Carriers have a responsibility to both prevent outages and, if they do take place, quickly inform the Commission and affected 911 call centers," the FCC's statement on the settlement said. "FCC rules mandate that mobile phone service providers 'transmit all wireless 911 calls' and inform 911 call centers of any 911 network outage that lasts 30 minutes or more."