T-Mobile to Pay $19.5 Million to Settle 911 Probe

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau and T-Mobile reached a settlement to end an investigation into whether the carrier violated the agency’s 911 rules. Wireless carriers must reasonably design and operate their networks to ensure reliable transmission of all 911 calls, including providing 911 call back information and 911 location information, to public safety answering points (PSAPs), and to timely notify potentially affected PSAPs of reportable 911 outages. 

Under the terms of the Consent Decree, T-Mobile will pay a $19.5 million settlement payment and implement a compliance plan. T-Mobile made new commitments to improve the 911 outage notices given to PSAPs, including providing them with more information about outages and providing follow-up notices within two hours of the initial outage notifications, according to the bureau.  

The investigation stemmed from a June 15, 2020 outage that lasted more than 12 hours. It led to congestion of T-Mobile’s 4G, 3G and 2G networks, and caused the failure of more than 23,000 911 calls without location information and more than 20,000 calls to 911 call centers without call back information. 

According to the FCC, the outage began at 12:33 Eastern Standard Time. At 2:41 p.m., T-Mobile began mass 911 outage notifications to thousands of potentially affected 911 call centers that stated “911 calls still completing.” It sent a final notification after the outage was resolved.

A brief failure of a leased fiber transport link in the T-Mobile network caused the outage, which was made worse by a temporary routing flaw in a single location and two previously undetected flaws in third-party software, according to the agency. Restoration was also impacted by a temporary failure of remote access to the affected transport link.

In addition to making the payment to the U.S. Treasury, to end the investigation, T-Mobile agreed to designate a vice president as a compliance officer who will develop a compliance plan.  

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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