T-Mobile will pay $19.5 million settlement for 12-hour 911 outage (updated)

The June 2020 failure caused problems for over 23,000 calls.

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Jon Fingas
November 23, 2021 6:08 PM
ARLINGTON, VA - AUGUST 18:  People walk past the front of a T-Mobile retail store on August 18, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia. T-Mobile announced Wednesday that a data breach exposed the personal information of 7.8 million current customers and 40 million people who had applied for credit. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - AUGUST 18: People walk past the front of a T-Mobile retail store on August 18, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia. T-Mobile announced Wednesday that a data breach exposed the personal information of 7.8 million current customers and 40 million people who had applied for credit. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

T-Mobile is once again on the hook for a 911 outage. The carrier has agreed to pay $19.5 million to settle an FCC investigation of a 12-hour service outage in June 2020 that led to 911 call failures. While the FCC didn't know exactly how many emergency calls were affected due to some overlapping issues, it recorded tens of thousands of issues.

Over 23,000 calls suffered a "complete" failure, the FCC said, while a similar amount didn't include location data. Roughly another 20,000 didn't include callback info. The outage began when a leased fiber link in the T-Mobile network went awry, and a single-location routing flaw magnified the crisis. T-Mobile also had problems remotely accessing the fiber link.

This isn't the first time T-Mobile has dealt with a 911 outage. It settled to the tune of $17.5 million over failures in 2014.

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We've asked T-Mobile for comment. The FCC said the carrier responded to outage-related questions in a "timely" fashion, however, so this wasn't a hotly disputed issue. Not that the company was likely to fight a settlement that won't significantly impact its finances. And like it or not, this won't do much to help people who couldn't get full help in a moment of crisis.

Update 11/24 12:45PM ET: T-Mobile told Engadget it takes reliable connectivity and public safety "very seriously" with multiple failsafes, and that it was "moving on" from the FCC investigation to focus on its network expansion. You can read the full statement below.

We understand how critical reliable connectivity is to ensure public safety and we take that responsibility very seriously. We have built resiliency into our emergency systems to ensure that our 911 elements are available when they’re needed. This was a short-term isolated outage and we immediately took steps to further enhance our network to prevent this type of event from happening in the future. Now we are moving on from the FCC’s investigation and continuing our focus on our ongoing network build.

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