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

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

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