AT&T agreed to pay a $5.25 million fine over two major network outages that prevented at least 15,000 people in the United States from calling 911, the Federal Communications Commission said Thursday, with the telecom giant itself confirming the development. The fine settles the wireless regulator's probe into the incidents started last year after AT&T's network mass-dropped emergency calls in March and May of 2017. Besides the fine, AT&T vowed to implement a number of wireless system changes so as to reduce the possibility of such an ordeal happening again going forward and once again endangering American lives.
As part of the same settlement, AT&T pledged to improve its system for notifying 911 call centers about outages and documenting dropped calls. The Dallas, Texas-based mobile service provider will be providing the FCC with regular settlement compliance reports for an indefinite period, the agency said. The investigation into the matter was led by the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, with a separate probe later being started by its Enforcement Bureau. The former investigation was preliminary in nature so while officially concluded, it didn't result in any charges being pressed against AT&T, whereas the latter led to this week's settlement.
The March outage dropped 911 calls from approximately 12,600 individuals, some of which attempted to contact emergency services on numerous occasions during the ordeal. The May incident was smaller in scope, having prevented some 2,600 Americans from completing 911 calls. The FCC also concluded AT&T failed to react to the issues in a timely manner, both in terms of addressing them and notifying the nation's call centers about the outages. AT&T recently concluded another major clash with the federal government after a U.S. district judge approved its $85.6 billion acquisition of Time Warner which the Department of Justice attempted to block on antitrust grounds and sued the company in an attempt to pressure it into divesting either Turner or DIRECTV.