Widespread 911 Outage Sparks FCC Investigation Into CenturyLink

Illustration for article titled Widespread 911 Outage Sparks FCC Investigation Into CenturyLink
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A CenturyLink outage that started on Thursday has left customers across the country without internet and shut down vital services including 911 emergency calls. And now the federal government is launching an investigation.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced on Twitter on Friday morning that he’s instructed the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to launch an investigation into the outage, which has left 911 services unavailable for unnumbered people across the U.S.

“When an emergency strikes, it’s critical that Americans are able to use 911 to reach those who can help,” Pai said in a statement. “The CenturyLink service outage is therefore completely unacceptable, and its breadth and duration are particularly troubling.”


The Louisiana-based CenturyLink tweeted Thursday night that its engineers had identified a “network element” responsible for the outage. While some locations have regained service, as of publishing time midday on Friday, many customers are still without service as CenturyLink suffered some additional technical issues while trying to fix the problem.

The outage reportedly cut off access to 911 emergency calls in Washington state, Missouri, Massachusetts, Idaho, and Arizona. A look at outage tracker DownDetector shows that while service disruptions are primarily West Coast-based, it’s impacted plenty of states in the Midwest and East Coast, including New York and Florida. Some calls to 911 reportedly resulted in callers encountering busy signals, though in Boston the disruptions seemed limited to cellular service, and landline calls remained unaffected.


Emergency calls weren’t the only services disrupted by the outage. In Idaho, phone services at the Department of Correction and the Department of Education were inaccessible. Meanwhile, doctors and nurses at a hospital in Greeley, Colorado, were unable to get digital patient records.

Gizmodo reached out to CenturyLink for comment, but have not yet received a response.



Consumer tech reporter by day, danger noodle by night. No, I'm not the K-Pop star.

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Middle of the night last night I get an annoying cell phone alert telling me 911 services are inaccessible.  Now I’m not saying this is something I didn’t need to know, but a visual alert without the loud audio alert that overrode my “Do not disturb” setting  would have been better at 1:00 in the morning.