Shentel Pays $227k to Resolve 911 Disruption Investigation

On April 24, 2023, the FCC released an Order adopting a Consent Decree that resolved an investigation into whether Shenandoah Telecommunications Company (“Shentel”) failed to deliver 911 calls during a 911 outage that occurred between April 6, 2022 and April 22, 2022 in four West Virginia counties.  As part of the Consent Decree, Shentel agreed to implement a compliance plan and pay a $227,200 civil penalty.

On April 6, 2022, Shentel experienced a disruption of 911 service in four West Virginia Counties where it provided interconnected VoIP service.  The disruption began during Shentel’s planned upgrade to its network, which involved replacing Session Border Controllers (“SBCs”) and transitioning customers to a new 911 routing service.  The transition to the new 911 routing service occurred before replacement of the SBCs was complete.

Subscribers who had been transitioned to the new 911 routing service but had not been transitioned to the new SBCs experienced one-way audio during 911 calls.  Essentially the new 911 routing service could not route the callers’ voice signals to the PSAPs without the new SBCs in place, meaning that the PSAP operators could not hear the callers, but the callers could hear the PSAP operators.  Automatic Number Information (“ANI”) and Automatic Location Information (“ALI”) were delivered to the PSAP with the call, which allowed the PSAP operators to affirmatively place return calls to communicate with 911 callers.  The disruption of 911 service was resolved on April 22, 2022.

On September 15, 2022, the Enforcement Bureau issued a Letter of Inquiry (“LOI”) to Shentel directing it to submit a sworn written response relating to the April 2022 disruption of 911 service.  Follow ups were issued on November 4, 2022 and December 8, 2022.  Shentel timely responded to each of the Bureau’s inquiries.

To resolve the investigation, Shentel agreed to implement a compliance plan with regard to its 911 operations, which includes (1) developing operating procedures that identify risks that could result in disruptions to 911 service, protect against such risks, detect 911 outages when they occur, respond to such outages with remedial actions, and recover from such outages as soon as practicable; (2) implementing best practices relating to testing network elements and upgrades, managing 911 disruptions, and 911 network components; and (3) reviewing and updating Shentel’s NORS procedures.  Shentel is also required to create a compliance manual, establish and implement a compliance training program, report any instances of non-compliance within 15 days after discovery, and file four compliance reports detailing its efforts to comply with the Consent Decree.  Shentel has also agreed to pay $227,200 civil penalty within 30 days of the Effective Date of the Consent Decree.

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