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FCC probing Verizon on thousands of failed attempts to dial 911 during the snow storm in January

Posted: , by Daniel P.

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FCC probing Verizon on thousands of failed attempts to dial 911 during the snow storm in January
Verizon has received a letter requiring it to explain, investigate and, in the future, avoid the events that led to thousands of unsuccessful attempts to connect wireless callers to the 911 emergency service. The probe reads:

"The FCC has received reports that during the snowstorm that hit the Washington D.C. region on January 26, 2011, approximately 8,300 wireless 9-1-1 calls to the Montgomery County Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), routed over the Verizon network, were not connected, and an additional 1,700 wireless calls to the Prince George's County PSAP were not connected. I know that you will agree that any 9-1-1 call which is not connected can have serious consequences, but the large number of missed 9-1-1 calls on January 26 is truly alarming. I therefore request that Verizon provide an explanation of the causes of this and similar failures, provide Verizon's assessment of the possibility of occurrence in other locations and describe what actions Verizon is taking to prevent recurrence of these problems."

Then it goes to explain how the culprit were a few trunks maintained by Verizon (not Verizon Wireless) that connect wireline, wireless and VoIP calls to the Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP) of the respective counties. One of these trunks went down at 5:45pm on January 26th, and, for some reason, Verizon's system started automatically shutting down the other thirteen wireless trunks, until the whole channel for connecting wireless calls to the PSAP was out of service by 8:45pm that day. A similar thing happened with the Prince George's County PSAP.

The issue in question is that Verizon didn't notify the PSAPs that they can't connect calls to them, although the trunks are supposed to sound alarms when they go off. It was the PSAP representatives that got in touch with Verizon around 11pm to say nobody is connecting people's 911 emergency calls on the Verizon network. Fifteen minutes after that the trunks were restored back into service.

"We are particularly concerned that this problem may be widespread across Verizon's footprint. We therefore request that Verizon investigate the extent of the problem across its network and provide the following information by March 10, 2011:", continues Jamie Barnett, chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, asking in a nutshell whether this has happened before in other places throughout the nation, and what will Verizon do about it.

Sounds like a nice little PR storm brewing for Big Red, we will keep an eye on the developments.

via Engadget

21 Comments
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posted on 22 Feb 2011, 08:08 3

1. pikasu (unregistered)


Verison's new logo now is "Rule the air, except when you need to call 911." Ha, I love it. But to be fair as long as Verizon learns from this and doesn't allow it to happen again, it is the only good thing that can come from this.

posted on 22 Feb 2011, 08:33 4

2. Mo (unregistered)


I'm dying. Can you hear me now? Hello?

posted on 23 Feb 2011, 10:46 1

20. jogutier (Posts: 324; Member since: 12 Feb 2010)


@ MO, no matter what cell phone company you have. I hope you don't jinx yourself dumb@55!

posted on 22 Feb 2011, 08:49 6

3. OhNoSnow (unregistered)


Sad thing is that many people called 911 because it was snowing! Were there really that many "emergencies"?

posted on 22 Feb 2011, 08:55 6

4. DROIDFANX (Posts: 11; Member since: 26 Jul 2010)


Make sure you idiots that are commenting realize the article states Verizon, not Verizon Wireless had the issues. The "can you hear me now" and the "rule the air" slogans come from Verizon Wireless. Lets also not address the fact that home phone service in general was down but no one is commenting on that. This is probably just a way for the fcc to make Verizon look bad because they are standing up on the whole net neutrality situation.

posted on 22 Feb 2011, 09:39 2

5. Tottenham (Posts: 86; Member since: 05 Jan 2011)


"...approximately 8,300 wireless 9-1-1 calls to the Montgomery County Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), routed over the Verizon network, were not connected, and an additional 1,700 wireless calls to the Prince George's County PSAP were not connected." The article clearly states the calls of concern were all "wireless". Now it may be true that the FCC is ticked with Verizon, but this does appear to be a VZW issue.

posted on 22 Feb 2011, 10:18 4

7. Gawain (Posts: 375; Member since: 15 Apr 2010)


If Verizon were the only phone company in the area, and Verizon Wireless were the only wireless provider in the area, you'd be right. The article also states "nobody is connecting ...emergency calls on the Verizon network." To mean, that the Verizon trunks that feed to PSAPs were not carrying traffic. There was no mention of emergency calls that were carried by other LECs in the area.

posted on 22 Feb 2011, 13:05 2

12. sinfulta (Posts: 268; Member since: 11 Dec 2008)


Verizon is the landline provider. Depending on where you live calls are routed through the landline provider through the switches. So those that are in AT&T or Quest or Embarq, etc Landline areas, All your calls will be routed through that local landline carriers phone switch. I remember like a year ago to run some tests in Northern California AT&T landline was cut accidentally in the south bay and nobody complained then.

That affected a market with twice the density of population, it just so happens they're was no emergency's to be called at that moment. But you couldn't make a call let alone a 911 call. (Even worse).

This happens all the time more than people think, it's just a matter of if the media wants to make it news or not. Someone has to be blamed right?

posted on 22 Feb 2011, 17:56

19. learntoreadbeforecommenting (unregistered)


Then it goes to explain how the culprit were a few trunks maintained by Verizon (not Verizon Wireless) that connect wireline, wireless and VoIP calls to the Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP) of the respective counties. One of these trunks went down at 5:45pm on January 26th, and, for some reason, Verizon's system started automatically shutting down the other thirteen wireless trunks, until the whole channel for connecting wireless calls to the PSAP was out of service by 8:45pm that day. A similar thing happened with the Prince George's County PSAP.

posted on 22 Feb 2011, 10:15 3

6. Gawain (Posts: 375; Member since: 15 Apr 2010)


"... because they are standing up on the whole net neutrality situation."

I wouldn't put it past this administration even a little.

posted on 22 Feb 2011, 10:40 1

8. hawk62 (Posts: 320; Member since: 21 Nov 2009)


Verizon has no clue what it is doing. We have to deal with them at work with our FO line. They are useless when somehing happens. They bought up companies and have no idea what they got. Not surprised they have problems.

As for the 911, i bet 9999 out of the 10000 calls were for snow. People down there shut down everything for half an inch of snow. It is funny.

posted on 22 Feb 2011, 12:30 3

10. msa1988 (Posts: 417; Member since: 30 Mar 2010)


I live in DC. We got 10 inches in 5 hours starting at 4pm, right at rush hour. The highways are so hilly here that as soon as the cars stopped (they stop on a regular day rush hour), there was so much snow on the ground so quick that no one could move. People that live 10 miles out of DC got home in 8 - 15 hours after they left their work. I peaced out of work at 2 and missed all of this, thank god.

Regardless, when you are stuck in traffic, calling 911 isn't going to help...

posted on 23 Feb 2011, 17:05

21. kg4icg (Posts: 69; Member since: 18 May 2008)


We got 4-6 inches of snow that day and it was exaserbated by a wet base. No way we got near 10 inches even out here near Dulles Airport.

posted on 22 Feb 2011, 11:44 3

9. cellgeek82 (Posts: 518; Member since: 20 Dec 2009)


I bet if AT&T had this problem everybody would be throwing rocks at them. But Verizon has issues and it's the FCC picking on them. Hmm, way too much koolaid.

posted on 22 Feb 2011, 12:31 6

11. msa1988 (Posts: 417; Member since: 30 Mar 2010)


Thats because AT&T sucks...

posted on 22 Feb 2011, 14:05 2

15. CRICKETownz (Posts: 980; Member since: 24 Oct 2009)


thats b/c At&t has issues year round let alone an isolated one like this...they should have stones thrown at them

posted on 22 Feb 2011, 13:39 1

13. janesmith (unregistered)


Well i dont live in washingtong no snow here thank god but i live in los angels were there are alot of earthquakes and last time there was an 4. Sumthing earthquake at 4:30 am in the morning verizon and at&t didnt work at all. I know cuz i have a droid x and a bb bold 9700 on att. Even tho they showed full reception it was impossible to make calls. Funny thing only boost mobile worked . It was funny when it hit everyone was asleep and when the earthquake hit and my sister comes runnin into my room OMG earthquake!! And i was all like wtf o shit its shakin . And my sister has boost and her crappy phone was the only one that worked .

posted on 22 Feb 2011, 14:08

16. CRICKETownz (Posts: 980; Member since: 24 Oct 2009)


1pt. for Boost Mobile...now only if there could be earthquakes every morning at 4 am for Boost to be able to work decent.

posted on 22 Feb 2011, 13:57

14. omarc26 (Posts: 357; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)


@ janessmith i also live in La and it was a 5.1 that earthquake that hit at 4:30 in the morning . And yes i agree at&t always craps out when there is an earthquake im not even going to argue about verizon because i dont have verizon. Over the past year we had a few earthquakes and at&t never works t-mobile too because my sister has t-mobile and it also never works when there is an earthquake. Im surprised i always tought verizon did work when that happens. I guess not. I feel bad for those persons in washington trapped in the snow and cudnt call anyone... Now imagine if there really was a huge earthquake like a 9 point something ? We would be toast...

posted on 22 Feb 2011, 15:35

17. networkdood (Posts: 6326; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)


Wow, do any of you know how wireless services work?? You want a wireless phone to work when an earthquake hits or a snowstorm hits?? Ok, despite the name "wireless", cell towers, just one component of the network are needed to run your phone. Those towers are powered by underground, or, visible cables. If someone, or mother nature, 'cuts' those cables, than it will not work. 911 is supposed to work without power?? Yeah, I don't think so......wow.....
Also, in california, do you know how many times a QWEST or a VERIZON employee cuts an AT&T line?? Too many times....perhaps, they need to train their workers better, or maybe each company should paint their lines to distinguish them better, lol.

posted on 22 Feb 2011, 16:56

18. omarc26 (Posts: 357; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)


@networkdood thanks for ur answer i didnt know that lol :p i learned something new today .

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