A nationwide CenturyLink outage has knocked out 911 voice calls in parts of the US and affected everything from Verizon mobile data to ATM withdrawals, lottery drawings, and hospital patient records. The downtime, which also impacts CenturyLink’s residential internet customers, began Thursday and has now stretched on for more than 24 hours.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai announced Friday that such a delay is “unacceptable” and said the commission is investigating the ongoing outage after reports of people getting busy signals when dialing 911. “When an emergency strikes, it’s critical that Americans are able to use 911 to reach those who can help,” Pai said. “The CenturyLink service outage is therefore completely unacceptable, and its breadth and duration are particularly troubling.” Local authorities have taken to social media to share other emergency numbers, and some are also encouraging the use of Text to 911 if voice calls are unavailable wherever someone might need help.
The nationwide @CenturyLink service outage and the delay in restoring critical 911 capabilities is unacceptable. I have spoken to CenturyLink to express my concerns and have directed the @FCC’s public safety staff to launch an investigation. My statement below. #publicsafety pic.twitter.com/HgQas1xtyB— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) December 28, 2018
CenturyLink has provided few specifics on the problem. The company first acknowledged a service disruption yesterday morning, later saying that “CenturyLink engineers and technicians identified a network element that was impacting customer services and are addressing the issue in order to restore services.” On Thursday night, CenturyLink estimated that the situation would be resolved within four hours — but that didn’t pan out.
CenturyLink engineers and technicians identified a network element that was impacting customer services and are addressing the issue in order to restore services. We estimate services will be restored within four hours. We apologize for any inconvenience this caused customers.— CenturyLink (@CenturyLink) December 28, 2018
On Friday, the company offered several “we continue to make good progress” updates but little in the way of new details. Service has been restored in some areas, but customer responses on Twitter suggest that many are still waiting for things to come back online.
Restoring impacted services for our customers is very important to us. We are seeing good progress, but our service restoration work is not complete. Our teams are continuing their efforts to resolve these issues and we will continue to provide updates throughout the day.— CenturyLink (@CenturyLink) December 28, 2018
A rundown of the problems that have stemmed from CenturyLink’s outage:
911 has been at times unavailable in sections of Arizona, Idaho, Massachusetts, Missouri, and western Washington state. Pai said the FCC’s investigation “will include an examination of the effect that CenturyLink’s outage appears to have had on other providers’ 911 service.”
Patient records were difficult to access for medical centers including the North Colorado Medical Center, which briefly had to drop digital for pen and paper notes due to the outage.
The internet outage shut down phone service for Idaho’s Department of Correction and Department of Education and also knocked out the public library’s computers.
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Century Link has nationwide outages right now, which means our public computers can’t get online. We have some staff internet access, so if you have a time-sensitive request then call us (208-972-8200) or stop by any info desk at a #BoisePublicLibrary branch! A post shared by Boise Public Library (@boisepublib) on Dec 27, 2018 at 11:23am PST
The Idaho Lottery was temporarily unable to “sell draw game tickets or validate and pay claims on winning tickets.” Sales have since been restored as normal.
Verizon Wireless has experienced mobile data service disruptions in Albuquerque and parts of Montana.
Some ATMs have experienced errors in Idaho and Montana.
Pai said he has underscored to CenturyLink “the urgency of restoring service immediately. We will continue to monitor this situation closely to ensure that consumers’ access to 911 is restored as quickly as possible.”