AT&T fined $5.25M over 911 outage that dropped 15,000 calls to emergency services

That's way less than T-Mobile paid in 2015.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister

When you call 911, you expect emergency services to pick up the phone. But last year, AT&T dropped some 15,000 emergency calls and failed to notify call centers quickly -- and now the company has been fined $5.25 million to settle an FCC investigation into the outages.

According to the FCC (PDF), there were actually two outages: the one in March that dropped some 12,600 calls over the course of 5 hours, and another that lasted 47 minutes and dropped 2,600 calls to 911 in May. 

AT&T's fine is smaller than the $17.5 million that T-Mobile had to pay in 2005 after three hours of 911 downtime, or the $16 million settlement against CenturyLink that year.

The fine's not all, though: AT&T will also make "proactive system changes to reduce the likelihood and impact of future 911 outages" and file compliance reports with the FCC.   

"Providing access to emergency 911 services is critically important, and to that end we cooperated with the FCC in their review," an AT&T spokesman told CNET. "These events resulted from planned network changes that inadvertently interfered with the routing of 911 calls. We've taken steps to prevent this from happening again."

Reuters reported the story earlier.

Last year, CNET looked into how the 911 system can fail us.

Watch this: Are you okay with Apple sharing your location with 911?