Ajit Pai said today that AT&T’s 911 outage in March could have been prevented if the carrier had implemented network reliability best practices.
On March 8, 12,539 Americans who were AT&T customers tried to call 911. But they couldn’t reach emergency services because of a nationwide outage of AT&T’s VoLTE 911 network. When they placed that call, they heard fast busy signals, endless ringing, or silence.
“This was unacceptable. In times of trouble, Americans in need must be able to reach Americans who can help. That’s why as soon as this outage occurred, I directed the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to investigate,” Pai said.
“Today, the Bureau has delivered a thorough, fact-based report of its findings. These findings are based on data derived from the FCC’s network outage reporting system and numerous interviews with officials from AT&T, subcontractors Comtech and West, as well as several affected public safety answering points or PSAPs, including the Office of Unified Communications here in Washington, DC.”
Pai said the findings are highly instructive, accenting that the outage could have been prevented.
“It was the result of mistakes made by AT&T. The Bureau’s report shows that there were shortfalls in operational redundancies, risk assessment, and stakeholder and consumer outreach. Had AT&T followed certain best practices as outlined by the FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council, this outage would have had much less impact. Indeed, the cause of the outage could and should have been identified and addressed with periodic audits of the network.” Pai said.
He said the good news is that AT&T has now addressed the vulnerabilities that led to this outage, but noted that had these safeguards been in place on March 8, it is exceedingly unlikely that this outage would have occurred.
“Going forward, I urge every carrier to address similar vulnerabilities in their networks. Additionally, I ask industry, PSAPs, and consumer groups to work with the Bureau to explore ways to improve notifications to PSAPs and consumers when 911 outages occur. We can’t turn back time and undo this outage. But by learning the right lessons from it, we can, must, and will reduce the odds that such an outage will happen again,” Pai said.