FCC Report Details 2018 CenturyLink Outage with 9-1-1 Effects
Monday, August 19, 2019 | Comments

A new FCC report details the cause and impact of a nationwide CenturyLink network outage that occurred last December, along with recommendations to help prevent similar outages from occurring in the future.

“This massive ‘sunny day’ outage was completely unacceptable and impacted millions of customers across the country,” said FCC Chairman Pai. “Americans expect and deserve reliable phone and broadband service — especially the ability to call 9-1-1. It’s important for communications providers to take heed of the lessons learned from this incident.”

Beginning on Dec. 27, 2018, CenturyLink experienced an outage on its fiber network that lasted for almost 37 hours. The outage was caused by an equipment failure that was exacerbated by a network configuration error. The outage affected communications service providers, businesses customers and consumers who relied on CenturyLink’s transport services, which route communications traffic from various providers to locations across the country. The outage resulted in extensive disruptions to phone and broadband service, including 911 calling. As many as 22 million customers across 39 states were affected, including about 17 million customers across 29 states who lacked reliable access to 9-1-1. At least 886 calls to 9-1-1 were not delivered.

Lessons learned from the incident and specific network reliability best practices outlined in the report include:
• Turning off or disabling system features that are not in use;
• Including in network monitoring memory and processor utilization alarms that are regularly audited to ensure functionality and evaluated to improve early detection and calibration; and
• Having standard operating procedures for network repair that address cases where normal networking monitoring procedures are inoperable or otherwise unavailable.

Among next steps, the FCC will engage in stakeholder outreach to promote best practices and contact other major transport providers to discuss their network practices. The commission will also offer assistance to small providers to help ensure that our nation’s communications networks remain robust, reliable and resilient.

The full report is here.

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