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Communications Government Verizon

Feds Fine Verizon $3.4 Million Over 911 Service Outage Issues 65

itwbennett writes The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has fined Verizon $3.4 million over its failure to notify police and fire departments during a 911 service outage last year. Under the commission's rules, Verizon and other carriers were required to notify emergency call centers of a six-hour outage that occurred in April. The outage involved multiple carriers and affected over 11 million people in seven states.
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Feds Fine Verizon $3.4 Million Over 911 Service Outage Issues

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    That's a drop in the ocean for something as crucial and not to mention life threatening such as that.

    Just imagine a family member was having a medical emergency and they died simply because you couldn't reach emergency services in time.

    • Six hours is 25% of a single day, thus for the year, they were out of pocket six one hundredths of a percent of the time.

      I have been described as risk-averse, and I could work within those tolerances.

      • by nanoflower ( 1077145 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @07:59PM (#49288219)

        I'm sure you could but the telephone companies are held to a higher standard for 911 service. That being said the outage would not have resulted in the fines if only Verizon had notified the local fire/police offices. Sure that might take some effort but it is the least they could do while 911 service is out (one which people's lives can depend on.)

        Hell, it might have been as simple as the head offices sending out an email to the local offices telling them to call their local police/fire departments which might have entailed a little discussion and a few minutes at the computer, followed by a few minutes on the phone at the local offices. Not a lot of work to save a few million and possibly save some lives.

        • Not a lot of work to save a few million and possibly save some lives.

          How does telling the PSAP (public safety answering point) that cellular 911 service is out save lives? How does the PSAP tell people who can't call in that they can't call in?

          By the time it got to the newspapers, or the radio, it would be over.

          • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Thursday March 19, 2015 @04:21AM (#49289971)

            How does telling the PSAP (public safety answering point) that cellular 911 service is out save lives? How does the PSAP tell people who can't call in that they can't call in?

            It tells the local police to send out more officers on patrol, patrolling officers can be instructed to keep an eye out. Calls direct to the station will be taken more seriously.

            I'm sure the local emergency services have a contingency plan for then PSAP goes down.

            • Send more officers out on patrol? But they don't have enough tasers, pepper spray, and 9mm ammunition for all that!
            • It tells the local police to send out more officers on patrol,

              They already have all the available officers doing what they are supposed to be doing. It takes time to call out more. And calling out more officers does NOTHING to help people who need to call 911 know they need to call the non-emergency number.

              patrolling officers can be instructed to keep an eye out.

              Patrolling officers are already supposed to "keep an eye out". Would you suggest that they increase their "keep an eye out" by peering in citizen's windows just in case someone is having a heart attack and can't call 911 on their cell phone?

              Calls direct to the station will be taken more seriously.

              If calls "direct to th

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @08:54PM (#49288561)

          The thing is this article is not very fair. Verizon effected customers in this outage were a drop in the bucket of this outage and it wasn't caused by Verizon. It was caused by Intrado which currently controls most of the ALI (address relation) servers. Verizon most likely wasn't even aware of what was going on until they started getting reports from the psaps and even then most likely had no power to determine the severity of the outage.

          • If it's caused by someone else then why isn't Intrado being fined. I'm guessing it's because Intrado is a contractor for Verizon which still leaves Verizon on the hook.
            • by Anonymous Coward

              Note the article says nothing about the other companies being fined or not fined just that Verizon settled. The outage report states that out of approx 11mil customers effected 750k were verizon. As far as Intrada being a contracter all i can say is read up on intrada. They play many roles in different places but generally when it comes to emergency services id bet contracted by the state govs for various functions

          • Intrado does more than ALI. If ALI is down that isn't a problem for experienced dispatchers. Call processing was down e.g. call routing and that's the equivalent of routing 9-1-1 to /dev/null. Verizon is more or less out of the 9-1-1 business except in name alone.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        POTS standard before telcos start getting in trouble is more along the lines of approx. 30 seconds a month of downtime. 6 hour period of downtime is like 70 years' worth of allowed outages when mother nature (catastrophic storms, etc) isn't to blame.

      • Which is why SLA's are usually monthly not yearly. Otherwise you could just do a 100 year SLA to get really low numbers.

        6 hours would completely smash a 99.9% SLA which should be the minimum emergency services should have.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, I'm sure one person can. But a whole country can't:

        It was 6 hours, and Verizon's portion covered 750,000 people, so let's work with those numbers. On average the USA has 240,000,000 911 calls per year, so, assuming these are average US citizens:

        (750,000 affected/ 320,000,000 population) * (240,000,000 calls per year/ 365 days * 4 sets of 6 hour periods) = 385 missed calls. So maybe you can live within that tolerance, but as a society, that's lives lost due to negligence. How much would you like the g

        • by adolf ( 21054 )

          When I was a kit, I was taught (in public school) to always call 911 for emergencies and if that didn't work, to call 0 for an operator.

          Is this most mundane of fail-safes no longer in place?

    • Because reporting the issue would have magically made them be able to reach emergency services.

      • Re:3.4 mill? (Score:5, Informative)

        by ShaunC ( 203807 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @08:45PM (#49288507)

        In fact it might have. Reporting the issue immediately would have given the affected emergency services a chance to get the message out via television, radio, Facebook/Twitter/etc. and use the opportunity to remind the public of the non-emergency numbers. A few days ago my local PD's domestic violence hotline had some kind of outage, and a temporary backup number was all over the news right away. A 911 outage would affect a lot more people, and the sooner they know to put out the info, the better.

        • Reporting the issue immediately would have given the affected emergency services a chance to get the message out via television, radio, Facebook/Twitter/etc. and use the opportunity to remind the public of the non-emergency numbers.

          The problems started just before midnight Pacific Time on April 9 ...

          The number of people listening to the radio or watching news programs at that time of night is very low.

          Reading a list of communities and the appropriate local non-emergency numbers would take a long time in some places. And confuse a lot of people, especially sleepy ones.

          How many people follow their local cops on Twitter or Facebook? How many of them follow the PSAP, if the PSAP even has a Twitter or Facebook presence?

          And, in the long

    • potential harm of no import, but punishment sufficient to ensure future compliance is. Verizon pulls in over 10 billion dollars revenue a month, or $13.5 million per hour. Ineffectual feds just fined them about 15 minutes worth of revenue.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @07:29PM (#49288061)

    needs to be higher / ceo / vp jail time that will stop BS like this from happening.

  • by Lead Butthead ( 321013 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @07:32PM (#49288075) Journal

    Make the fine a (large) percentage of their annual gross revenue.

    • Make the fine a (large) percentage of their annual gross revenue.

      And what makes you think Verizon would *let* you do that? The telecom industry has very, very powerful friends in the FCC and congress.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        We're coming up on an election year. Since a lot of politicians have been extra naughty, they're having to work hard pretending to care if the commoners live or die.

    • There three other things that should be done.

      1. Do not allow the fines to be tax deductible.
      2. Do not allow the top executives to receive any bonuses.
      3. Restrict the top executives salaries to 25 times the federal minimum wage.

      The fact of the matter is that the top executives suffer no real consequences when they screw up. We need to make them pay a price when they put the public in danger.

      • A fine 500 times as big would actually punish them and cause firings. However your #3 only shows your petty jealousy, if an executive has projects making the company hundreds of millions, why not pay them a few million? Makes sense to me.
        • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
          Why not pay the project implementer a portion of those millions? Because our system only reward the figureheads, not the doers....
          • You're confused, the executive with the seven figure salary is one of the implementers, besides and above the directory, "project manager", project engineers, etc.
            • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
              In my experience, he's usually the one with the balls to say he can do it, with no idea how and no idea whether he has the resources. He then tries to line up people who can almost do it while paying almost enough to make it worth their while.

              He's basically a glorified dispatcher who has delusions of grandeur because he has his fist in the money pot.
  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2015 @07:45PM (#49288135) Journal

    Deregulate!

    • You do realize that Verizon, Comcast, et al have local monopolies which are government-granted? If the telecom industry was deregulated and this had happened, the Feds would've been happy to crucify Verizon to set an example for competitors. But because regulations have made them the only game in town for so many people, the Feds have no choice but to impose a fine which smarts, but won't really affect Verizon's operations. Verizon is "too big to fail" by government mandate.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    9/11 was 14 years ago. And even still I don't think you should can blame anyone but them Saudis.

  • quarter hour's worth of revenue, not even a slap on wrist. Off by at least two orders of magnitude to make Verizon even feel it a little

  • Is this maybe why Comcast twice inside of 3 days invoked Emergency Broadcast System tests, the latest being roughly 8:15 CDT last night? (Previous was on Sunday, both disrupted recorded/on demand programs, neither was live).
  • There are about 164,000 911 calls nationwide in a 6 hour period on average. For 7 states, that averages out to about 23,000. So what happened that there were 500 times as many 911 calls in that area as the average dictates? Or by affected, do they mean, could have been affected, if they were one of the 0.006% of the people that may have needed to call 911 at that time?
    Additionally, it is difficult to know what affected means when many areas already have hold times for 911.
  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Thursday March 19, 2015 @12:20AM (#49289365)

    So Verizon gets fined $3.4M for a 911 outage that endangered some possibly significantly large number of lives. In 2011 Google paid a $500M fine for the crime of carrying advertising by Canadian pharmacies offering discounted prices to American consumers for filling their prescriptions.

    Next time you vote on the national level, keep in mind that your federal government considers the "threat" of competition undercutting the pharma lobby's price monopoly 145.35 times more of an offense than having the 911 service not work when you need it.

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