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FCC looking into massive internet outage

December 28, 2018
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced today that the agency has launched an investigation into the nationwide CenturyLink outage, which has affected 911 service for numerous consumers across the country.

"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. I've directed Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to immediately launch an investigation into the cause of this outage. This inquiry will include an examination of the effect that CenturyLink's outage appears to have had on other provider's 911 services. I have also spoken with CenturyLink to underscore the urgency of restoring service immediately. We will continue to monitor this situation closely to ensure that consumers' access to 911 is restored as quicly as possible."

CenturyLink has provided few specifics on the problem. The company first acknowledged a service disruption yesterday morning, later saying that “CenturyLink engineers and technicians identified a network element that was impacting customer services and are addressing the issue in order to restore services.”

Some of the problems that have stemmed from CenturyLink’s outage:
  • 911 has been at times unavailable in sections of Arizona, Idaho, Massachusetts, Missouri, and western Washington state. Pai said the FCC’s investigation “will include an examination of the effect that CenturyLink’s outage appears to have had on other providers’ 911 service.”
  • Patient records were difficult to access for medical centers including the North Colorado Medical Center, which briefly had to drop digital for pen and paper notes due to the outage.
  • The internet outage shut down phone service for Idaho’s Department of Correction and Department of Education and also knocked out the public library’s computers.
  • The Idaho Lottery was temporarily unable to “sell draw game tickets or validate and pay claims on winning tickets.” Sales have since been restored as normal.
  • Verizon Wireless has experienced mobile data service disruptions in Albuquerque and parts of Montana.
  • Some ATMs have experienced errors in Idaho and Montana.

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