State will look into CenturyLink 911 issues

By Austin Huguelet

Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Via Wyoming News Exchange

CHEYENNE — State regulators plan to investigate reports of problems with 911 calls around the state last week during CenturyLink service outages here and across the country.

Wyoming Public Service Commission Senior Counsel Chris Petrie said Monday his organization would be “making inquiries” to the company regarding reports from several locations where systems that dispatchers use to identify phone numbers and locations of incoming calls failed.

Laramie County’s emergency management center was among those with the dispatch problem, which Petrie said could hamper attempts to help callers who can’t communicate for some reason.

“Imagine that you’ve had a heart attack and you drag yourself to the phone, call and pass out,” he said. “The dispatch would know who is calling and where from without you telling them.”

Sweetwater County dispatchers had similar problems Thursday, the county sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post last week.

CenturyLink spokeswoman Kristin Lee said her company would welcome the commission’s inquiry into the outage, which also disrupted internet service and Verizon cell service here Thursday and Friday.

“I think it’s very important to look at all aspects of this outage,” Lee said. “The Public Service Commission is doing the right thing.”

Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr, who on Saturday night tweeted plans to call for a Public Service Commission investigation into “unacceptable” outages here, said Monday she looked forward to some public hearings.

She also repeated criticism of the company for failing to reach out once trouble started Thursday.

Lee, the CenturyLink spokeswoman, said she reached out to a lobbying group representing Cheyenne and most other municipalities across the state Friday to let them know service was restored.

But Orr said she should have heard directly from Lee as soon as trouble started.

Communities in Colorado, Montana, Washington, Missouri and Massachusetts also experienced issues, including problems with making 911 emergency calls at all, according to local news reports.

Washington State and federal regulators announced investigations into emergency issues Friday.

“When an emergency strikes, it’s critical that Americans are able to use

911 to reach those who can help,” Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai said in a news release. “The CenturyLink service outage is therefore completely unacceptable, and its breadth and duration are particularly troubling.”

The Louisiana-based telecommunications giant offered scant details amid the crisis, tweeting repeatedly only that the company was dealing with a “network event.” At one point, the company encouraged customers who needed to call 911 to use cellphones or “drive to the nearest fire station.”