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FCC hits company with record fine for 911 failures

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CenturyLink will pay $16 million

In April of last year, a coding error knocked out 911 service for more than 11 million people, leaving more than 6,600 emergency calls — calls about a home intruder, an assault, a car accident, and much more — unanswered. The FCC has already fined Verizon for failing in its duties during the outage, and the Commission is now fining two more companies involved.

The FCC rarely fines companies over 911 problems

Those two companies — CenturyLink and Intrado Communications — were tasked by larger service providers with properly routing 911 calls, but after the major 911 outage in April, which affected people in seven states and lasted six hours, both companies failed "to timely notify" public safety personnel about the problems, the FCC announced today. An investigation by the FCC had determined earlier that the outage was entirely preventable.

The FCC settled with both companies for different amounts, related to the amount of calls each was responsible for. Intrado will pay $1.4 million, while CenturyLink will pay $16 million — the largest fine ever incurred related to a 911 infraction, although that number requires some context: the FCC only very rarely fines companies over 911 problems. Verizon was the last company to pay, incurring a $3.4 million fine for the April outage.

As part of the FCC's orders, both companies will be required to institute new rules and oversights to prevent outages in the future.