The Federal Communications Commission announced today that they are opening an investigation into what caused a nationwide outage that prevented some customers from being able to dial 911 from their cell phones, officials said Friday.
“When an emergency strikes, it’s critical that Americans are able to use 911 to reach those who can help,” FCC chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement addressing the outage, which began on Thursday and continued into Friday morning.
“The CenturyLink service outage is therefore completely unacceptable, and its breadth and duration are particularly troubling. I’ve directed the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to immediately launch an investigation into the cause and impact of this outage.”
Pai said he wants to know what went wrong and why it’s taken so long to get fixed.
“I have also spoken with CenturyLink to underscore the urgency of restoring service immediately,” he said. “We will continue to monitor this situation closely to ensure that consumers’ access to 911 is restored as quickly as possible.”
The nationwide @CenturyLink service outage and the delay in restoring critical 911 capabilities is unacceptable. I have spoken to CenturyLink to express my concerns and have directed the @FCC’s public safety staff to launch an investigation. My statement below. #publicsafety pic.twitter.com/HgQas1xtyB— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) December 28, 2018
The large-scale outage began after 12pm ET on Thursday, according to CenturyLink’s status page, and continues to cause disruption to 911 call centers throughout the country.
Late Thursday night, CenturyLink said the problem involved a “network element” that was affecting services but didn’t provide details on the problem. Verizon customers have also been affected because CenturyLink helps handle wireless network data traffic for Verizon and other wireless providers.
In parts of western Washington, CenturyLink customers received busy signals when calling 911, CBS affiliate KIRO-TV reports. Other areas of the country that also experienced 911 outages included parts of Iowa, New, Mexico, Massachusetts, Missouri, Idaho and Arizona.
#911Outage is sporadic throughout the state. We’ve worked with our local partners to create a comprehensive list of aternative 10-digit numbers. Remember, try 911 first. If it doesn’t work, try one of these numbers. You can download the spreadsheet here https://t.co/PPVjIM7u08 pic.twitter.com/gymrAT1p5r— WA Emergency Management (@waEMD) December 28, 2018
The outage impacted more than just cell phone users.
Internet service, ATM machines, and banks were throughout the country are being affected and a some hospitals have reported difficulty accessing patient records.
In Idaho, internet problems caused the temporary shutdown of phone services at the Idaho Department of Correction and the state’s Department of Education, The Idaho Statesman reported.
As of noon on Friday, CenturyLink said it was still working to restore full service.
“Restoring impacted services for our customers is very important to us,” the company said. “We are seeing good progress, but our service restoration work is not complete. Our teams are continuing their efforts to resolve these issues and we will continue to provide updates throughout the day.”