back to article Oh my God, 911 is down. Quick, call… aaargh!

AT&T suffered an America-wide outage of 911 emergency calls Wednesday evening, sparking some degree of panic and a swift response from US comms regulator, the FCC. The full scale of the problem is not yet known, and AT&T has yet to put out a response beyond a tweet acknowledging the problem and another one a little under an …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Why is the FCC involved ?

    Surely this is a free market differentiation, if you aren't happy with your 911 service you can simply switch suppliers to one that offers a better service.

    Since it may be inconvenient to do this whilst having a heart attack you should probably install some sort of app in advance to enable a quick-switch

    1. druck Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Why is the FCC involved ?

      I know that's supposed to be a joke, but you really wouldn't find it funny if you needed the emergency services.

      1. kain preacher

        Re: Why is the FCC involved ?

        I think that's the point. It's not funny but with this admin it just might happen.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Why is the FCC involved ?

        >but you really wouldn't find it funny if you needed the emergency services.

        The proper system is that the federal govt guarantees that your 911 call goes through and an ambulance turns up - and leaves because you don't have insurance ?

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: Why is the FCC involved ?

          Under Obama the 911 calls would have gone through. The Rainbow-farting Unicorn told me so.

          Under Obama, AT&T also had enough manpower and skills to tee the whole Internet traffic from its routers into the NSA datacenter. This seems to no longer be the case, must be Trump's fault!

          THANKS, GOD EMPEROR!

  2. Your alien overlord - fear me

    So with NG9-1-1, when I'm in Hawaii and the system goes down, a Florida call centre answers and dispatches an ambulance / fire engine from Florida to me in Hawaii. That is going to be very helpful.

  3. Slx

    I know a bit about legacy TDM switching systems and they can absolutely reroute traffic around a hardware or connectivity fault.

    In fact, that's one of the main features that digital switching systems have had going right back to the late 1970s.

    IP is more flexible, but claiming that this fault is some issue with the fundamental technology behind the legacy telephone network is absolute nonsense. You're talking about technology that was designed to route traffic around and self-heal in the event of the cold war turning hot or a natural disaster taking out a whole city.

    These are not unsophisticated systems and support extremely robust routing. They're just not IP based digital networks.

    It sounds like it's a badly designed legacy network, rather than anything to do with the core technology behind it.

    Unless they're claiming that they're still using some kind of 1960s/70s era crossbar electromechanical switching ?!?!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Do not forget to consider that these are going to be on the cell phone network, not on their land lines, and certainly not over the long distance trunking. Who even has land lines anymore? No one. This is the 911 call routing out of the AT&T cell network and back into a local 911 call center. It's slightly more complicated than dialing the police or fire directly, since now the AT&T cellular network must; 1) deduce your location, 2) lookup where the 911 call center nearest you is, 3) make the connection, and most importantly 4) be sure and feed all data and voice with the NSA! We're saved! God damn us, everyone! :P

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "Who even has land lines anymore? No one."

        I think you'll find that the vast majority still have landlines.

  4. Korev Silver badge
    Joke

    911?

    Still on 911? In the UK they're up to 999, I make that 88 versions ahead...

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: 911?

      US prices are normally quoted without sales tax included

      1. Herby

        Re: 911?

        Yup... 9.7% tax. Just about right. Sorry no tip included.

    2. Hans 1 Silver badge
      Pirate

      Re: 911?

      999 - Emergency - for the old farts like me ... ;-)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXdLCEjEAtg

  5. Richard Boyce

    Of course, it's already designed and everything's been thought of....

    "The next-generation system is designed for resiliency. It is designed for redundancy. It is designed to move. .. there is a critical need to ensure federal support for upgrading our 911 systems into a next-generation 911 environment..."

    What could possibly go wrong?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Of course, it's already designed and everything's been thought of....

      "What could possibly go wrong?"

      Only everything; the same crap carrier that can't route your voice call to a local 911 call center is that same bunch of idiots that are providing you the 4G-LTE Internet connection! Unless you are at home, which is where most accidents happen anyway, wait a tic... GET OUT OF YOUR HOUSE!!1! THAT'S WHERE THE DANGER IS COMING FROM IN THE FIRST PLACE!!1!

      There, I just saved some lives. *pats self on back*

      Well, the day is saved once again. Back to my secret identity as a Linux Admin... until trouble strikes.

      For wherever trouble strikes, especially trouble with installing packages or getting the infrastructure setup so things don't fall over quite so much, I'll BE THERE!!1! For I am Super Dude! Mild mannered Linux Admin by day, super hero and Golden Girls on Hulu addict by night! With his sidekick Windows Guy he patrols the big city in their Wagon Queen Family Truckster in search of open wifi access points that must be secured and good places to get tacos.

      WinGuy, to the Wagon Queen Family Truckster! I smell tacos!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Of course, it's already designed and everything's been thought of....

        actually 911 calls in the US are not routed locally first. Most cell 911 calls are handed off to the state police who then hand off to the local 911.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Of course, it's already designed and everything's been thought of....

      Maybe the federal support won't be forthcoming?

      I like it how the thingamabob is described as routing itself, like little ants being emitted from your phone, heading to precrime central, I mean preaccident central.

    3. 's water music Silver badge

      Re: Of course, it's already designed and everything's been thought of....

      there is a critical need to ensure federal support for upgrading our 911 systems into a next-generation 911 environment..."

      What could possibly go wrong?

      Incorrectly routed federal support?

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. MNGrrrl
    Facepalm

    Free market fail.

    > Surely this is a free market differentiation, if you aren't happy with your 911 service you can simply switch suppliers to one that offers a better service.

    During a house break in..."Gosh, if only I'd upgraded to the Police Premium license..." Or the fire department shows up and then asks you to slide your card for a 'water' up-charge fee. If you want your cat saved that'll be extra. There's a 10% mandatory gratuity for households over 4 members as well. Does that seem stupid? Good. Because that's what 'free' market looks like. And let us now never speak of it again. Yes, I'm fairly sure you were joking, but please don't -- people in my country can't tell the difference anymore.

    The FCC should walk into AT&T headquarters tomorrow and arrest every senior level manager, not fine them. 911 should always work. Always. Multiply redundant impossible to fail *always* because it's one of the areas in technology where failure is *not* an option. Failure = people die. Now, sometimes things happen. Maybe simultanious lightning strikes, tornadoes, floods, or apocalypse took out their three or more layers of redundancy. I think we can forgive that; Nobody could anticipate such a failure. But if they could, if a reasonable person would look at the system and say "This could fail" plausibly? Drag them out of their offices and put them in jail: It's what we do to threats to society, and screwing up emergency services *is* a threat. If this were some kid screwing around and cut some wires, you'd bet he'd be in jail for a long time. They deserve the same.

    1. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

      Re: Free market fail.

      "The FCC should walk into AT&T headquarters tomorrow and arrest every senior level manager, not fine them. 911 should always work. Always. Multiply redundant impossible to fail *always* because it's one of the areas in technology where failure is *not* an option. Failure = people die. "

      I agree this kind of thing is inexcusable, but thats why they fine millions of dollars an hour even when an outage covers a limited area. Arrest? Sorry but that is overkill. You should realize, data centers with multiply redundant power (I.e. two independt power lines going into the building), battery backup, and generator backup STILL have seemingly inconceivable failures because of the interconnect connecting all these power sources failing (usually with a nice electrical fire); or a data center orders multiply redundant connections, only to find that some bozo actually ran several connections using the same physical fiber optic fiber and not redundant at all. Redundancy should be a cure all but it isn't.

      That said, AT&T wireless has cut corners now and then in the past... if it was do to that then perhaps some jail time is in order (negligence).

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Free market fail.

        only to find that some bozo actually ran several connections using the same physical fiber optic fiber and not redundant at all. Redundancy should be a cure all but it isn't.

        Redundancy does work. It's only when the bozo doesn't implement it correctly, so that there is no redundancy, that you have an issue. That's a problem with the Bozo, not with Redundancy.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Free market fail.

      "During a house break in..."Gosh, if only I'd upgraded to the Police Premium license..." Or the fire department shows up and then asks you to slide your card for a 'water' up-charge fee. If you want your cat saved that'll be extra. There's a 10% mandatory gratuity for households over 4 members as well. Does that seem stupid? Good. Because that's what 'free' market looks like. And let us now never speak of it again. Yes, I'm fairly sure you were joking, but please don't -- people in my country can't tell the difference anymore."

      Yeah, that's not much of a joke anymore. A number of cities have switched to having fire department "subscriptions". If you don't pay your FD bill, they still have to go out to protect the neighboring houses, but they let the non-payer's property burn to the ground. You'd think after a couple of those the communities would wise up to why we made it a government run service, but apparently not.

      1. Edward Clarke

        Re: Free market fail.

        "A number of cities have switched to having fire department "subscriptions". If you don't pay your FD bill, they still have to go out to protect the neighboring houses, but they let the non-payer's property burn to the ground."

        Ok, where the hell is this happening? It's not April fools day for a couple of weeks.

    3. patrickstar

      Re: Free market fail.

      You know there are other options besides "run by the allmighty government that can never do wrong" and having to swipe your credit card to get someone to put out your house when it's on fire?

      Volunteer fire brigades are a thing, you know - in fact, it's how it has traditionally been done.

      And here, most rescue at sea is done by a private organization. Being rescued by them certainly doesn't involve a monetary transaction (though you are encouraged to donate afterwards, of course).

      Surprisingly, things tend to turn out better when they are based on people cooperating for mutual benefit than when they are done with force by all-powerful bureaucrats...

      1. 4ecks

        Re: Free market fail.

        Read a little bit of history - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_insurance_mark ,it was the "free market" that started the Fire Brigades.

  8. Frank N. Stein

    Are we sure that this whole thing wasn't due to a Sys Admin who doesn't have the skills to do their job? There is a lot of that going around at numerous companies, large, medium, and small, and yes, AT&T is among them. Verizon's Network has been known to buckle, due to Hallmark using them for their mobile device using Card stockers. AT&T is supposed to have a network that is robust enough to handle this but it seems, not. So Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile suffered 911 outages, but Sprint, never has? I guess they don't route 911 traffic, which is good. That alleged 1% difference in their network might be the 1% that drops 911 calls.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't buy that NG911 would fix this

    Even if it does, as a new system it will have all sorts of new problems. That flexibility to reroute 911 calls to other locations comes at a cost, that issues that one location experiences could potentially have a nationwide ripple effect. The "islands" of 911 we have now limit the problems to a single location or entity. This is like fixing the issues that led to the 2003 blackout by putting the entire nation on a single power grid...

  10. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge
    Gimp

    AT&T doesn't need to worry..

    ..after all, they have their buddy Mr "Nice As[1]" Pai in at the FCC. I'm sure they'll get a stern warning to not do it again and then a pat on the head.

    After all, he wouldn't want to damage his change of a nice cushy job post-FCC would he? He's got to look after his main customers..

    [1} Just one s - for now.

  11. Runty Dog
    FAIL

    it's happened before

    http://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/95/Illinois%20Bell%20Telephone%20Fire,%201988.pdf?sequence=2

    AT&T was knocked out before. They will never learn.

  12. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Why no "IT Crowd" reference yet?

    http://theitcrowd.wikia.com/wiki/New_Emergency_Services

    Remember the new number: 0118 999 881 999 119 7253

    Also that in Britain the Sound Of Da Police is NENA NENA NENA ...

    (When it isn't "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da", of course.)

    I'm not saying these are new jokes. But they are jokes that must be made.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020