State takes step toward fining CenturyLink for 911 outage

State regulators have taken another step toward fining CenturyLink $2.9 million for a statewide 911 outage last year.

The company contracts with the state to provide 911 services, which most people in Washington weren’t able to access by phone for about six hours during late April 9 and early April 10 outage.

Staff members with the state Utilities and Transportation Commission recommended the $2.9 million penalty in December to the three-member commission.

That left the commission to decide whether to impose a penalty. In February, an administrative law judge filed the commission’s formal complaint against the Louisiana-based telecommunications giant.

In a statement issued last week, CenturyLink stated it “looks forward to working with the WUTC Commission staff and other parties to resolve the complaint. We value customer safety and make reliable 911 communications a top priority.”

If commissioners decide to fine CenturyLink, they also will decide whether to go with the $2.9 million recommendation or another amount.

“The commissioners will hold a hearing to allow the company to respond to the allegations,” commission spokeswoman Amanda Maxwell said. “At that point, the commissioners will make a decision about actually setting a penalty.”

The hearing is expected to be scheduled after an April 20 conference.

It also is possible that commission staff members and the company could agree to a settlement before a hearing happens, Maxwell said.

A software coding error on the part of a third-party vendor used by CenturyLink, called Intrado, was determined to have caused the outage, which kept 5,840 calls from going through, according to the Utilities and Transportation Commission’s December report.

The commission staff members recommended CenturyLink be fined because it did not:

The company has said it now has safeguards in place to prevent a similar outage from happening again.