CenturyLink settles for $16 million with FCC, one year after seven-state 911 outage

CenturyLink has agreed to pay a fine of more than $16 million to the federal government for a 911 outage last year that affected seven states, including Washington.

The Louisiana-based telecommunications giant contracts with Washington to provide the state’s 911 services, which failed for about six hours late April 9 and early April 10, 2014.

About 11 million people were affected by the seven-state outage, with most of the 6,600 missed 911 calls in Washington, which had an estimated 5,840 that didn’t reach dispatchers, according to the state.

CenturyLink makes reliable 911 communications a top priority, spokesman Brian Dalessi said via email Tuesday.

“This outage was caused by a third-party vendor’s equipment failure that had never occurred before, and we worked with the vendor to implement measures to ensure that this type of failure will not happen again,” Dalessi wrote.

The outage was caused by a software coding error on the part of a Colorado-based company called Intrado, according to the state Utilities and Transportation Commission.

The state commission also filed a complaint against CenturyLink for the outage, and staff members have suggested a $2.9 million penalty. A hearing on that fine is expected to be scheduled soon.

The Federal Communications Commission fine, issued earlier this month, is the largest 911-related fine in FCC history. An Intrado subsidiary also was fined $1.4 million.

At the time of the outage, CenturyLink served 911 centers in Washington, Minnesota and North Carolina. Intrado served centers in Florida, South Carolina and Pennsylvania, the FCC said.

Verizon settled with the FCC in March for $3.4 million in connection to the same outage. It served 911 centers in California.

The difference in the fines for Century Link and the Intrado unit was related to the different numbers of call centers the companies were responsible for, according to the FCC.

According to the FCC’s statement about the federal settlement, CenturyLink and Intrado also agreed to: