T-Mobile faces a hefty $17.5 million fine after not complying with FCC standards and delaying in telling the agency of two outages on August 8, 2014. Now the company faces scrutiny and mandated changes.
The Federal Communications Commission posted on July 17 about T-Mobile's $17.5 million fine for a failure to address two national outages lasting nearly 3 hours in August 8, 2014 that affected 911 responder communication. FCC also demands the mobile carrier follow a new compliance plan that will ensure customers remain able to connect with emergency services at all times.
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The plan involves identifying risks that may stall 911 service, protecting against such risks, predict and/or detect future outages, respond by notifying affected 911 call centers of the outage, and then quickly restore services. Essentially, the agency is looking to ensure public safety by creating other means of communication if possible.
“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 Tom Wheeler. And addressed the likelihood of another event by any carrier.
“Communications providers that do not take necessary steps to ensure that Americans can call 911 will be held to account.” With T-Mobile’s hefty pay out, the highest in 2015, carriers are on notice. Don’t mess with a customer’s ability to retain emergency services.
A sentiment that Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the Enforcement Bureau, also finds to be important. “Americans across the country rely upon 911 in times of critical need.”
Cell phones have turned into house phones as rates lower and deals lock in good prices. According to FCC stats, nearly 27,400 calls per hour are made to 911 between all carriers and T-Mobile’s 50 million customers offer a huge chunk of people that went without first responder service.
“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.”
Short summary: don’t put citizens at safety risk for fear of fines or attempt a cover up. Eventually the agency will find out and call you down for some one-on-one time. And those fines will only increase. PC Magazine points out that T-Mobile’s lack of communication with the agency broke rules as well.
In fact, the commission has implemented programs forcing carriers to follow the same guidelines given by T-Mobile in order to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks again. A hardline forces a routing system that doesn’t allow for failure and mandates any outage lasting more than 30 minutes.
David Simpson, Retired Rear Admiral and Chief of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, reiterated the why the new plan must remain in effect.
“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.”
Speaking to CNET, a T-Mobile spokeswoman promised changes were already in motion. “We have made significant changes and improvements across a number of our systems since last year, and we will continue working to improve these critical systems with our partners to provide the standard of service our customers rightly expect from T-Mobile."
All social media accounts remain silent on the matter, however.
What will happen next is anyone’s guess, but the FCC already fined CenturyLink $16 million settlement for an outage in April 2014. Intrado Communications settled at $1.4 million and Verizon for $3.4 million in the same April outage. Public safety and access is no joke for the FCC. Carriers better be paying attention with Wheeler at the helm.