Investigations into Verizon 911 Outages Moving Forward

It has been a month and a half since we noted that the FCC and Maryland PSC were investigating an incident in which Verizon experienced outages in processing wireless 911 calls to two Maryland counties. See below for a quick update on the status of each investigation.

Maryland PSC. Verizon appeared at the Maryland PSC’s March 2 hearing, as directed by the PSC letter. After the hearing, the PSC issued an Order to Show Cause to Verizon, expanding its investigation to include three other outages in addition to the January 26 outage. The Order to Show Cause stated that Verizon’s Network Operations Center was aware of the outage, but did not notify Verizon’s customer care center, which, as a result, did not notify the PSAPs of the outage. The PSC concluded:

Verizon’s lack of prompt and timely communications to the PSAPs that some or all of the 911 trunks were not working properly and calls were not being delivered during these emergency situations is unacceptable.

Maryland law permits the PSC to assess a civil fine of up to $10,000 per violation of the public utility law or its rules. Verizon was ordered to show cause why a fine should not be imposed for each outage.

Verizon responded to the Order to Show Cause on April 4. In the Response, Verizon admitted that it needs to do a better job of communicating with PSAPs earlier in the process during 911 events, even if that means initiating communications before all the details are known.” However, Verizon described several improvements it has put in place and contended that Verizon’s actions did not rise to the level of a failure to comply with the statutory provision cited by the PSC.

The PSC held further hearings on April 5 and April 12. Its decision in the case is under advisement.

FCC. Unlike in Maryland, the FCC has not released any further information about its investigation of the outages. The FCC letter called for Verizon to submit a response to the Public Safety Bureau and to meet with its Chief within two weeks.” Presumably, those meetings occurred.

As I noted in my previous post, there is no indication that the Enforcement Bureau is participating in the investigation. This suggests that at least the initial focus is on remedial actions, rather than a fine. I would expect the Enforcement Bureau eventually to open an investigation, if it has not done so already. We may not hear more unless or until the FCC fines Verizon or the Commission reaches a settlement via a Consent Decree.