T-Mobile has been slapped with a pretty substantial fine over an outage that left customers without the ability to call emergency services last year.
The company agreed to settle complaints from the Federal Communications Commission, agreeing to pay $17.5 million and to implement a "compliance program" designed to limit chances of similar outages in the future.
"The Commission has no higher priority than ensuring the reliability and resilience of our nation's communications networks so that consumers can reach public safety in their time of need," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in a statement. "Communications providers that do not take necessary steps to ensure that Americans can call 911 will be held to account."
Reportedly, T-Mobile suffered two outages to its 911 services on Aug. 8, 2014, with the total downtime being around three hours. During this time, any T-Mobile customers trying to place calls to emergency services were unable to. Along with customers being unable to reach emergency services, the FCC also charged T-Mobile with not alerting first-responders or customers to the outages in a reasonable time, saying that T-Mobile did not have "appropriate safeguards" in place at the time.
The FCC's investigation also found that the outages would have been avoided if T-Mobile had implemented appropriate safeguards in its 911 network architecture.
According to the FCC, the impact could have been huge. On average, 27,400 calls to first responders are placed each hour, and with an outage that affected almost all of its customers nationwide, there is no telling who was unable to place emergency calls.
"The safety of our customers is extremely important and we take the responsibility to provide reliable 911 service very seriously," said a T-Mobile spokeswoman. "We have made significant changes and improvements across a number of our systems since last year, and we will continue working to improve these critical systems with our partners to provide the standard of service our customers rightly expect from T-Mobile."
The news comes shortly after T-Mobile unveiled a number of new plans for families, with families of four members being offered 10 GB of data each for $120 per month. The plan will change depending on how many members are in the family, with the first two lines being $50 each, the third being $20 and the fourth being free. Customers will have to subscribe before Labor Day, which is Sept. 7, and will have the option of doubling their data to 20 GB for an extra $10 per line.
For a company like T-Mobile which is trying to lure in new customers by offering its own spin on plans and which doesn't yet have a network that competes with the likes of Verizon and AT&T, customer trust is extremely important for the company. It is likely that the outage will have somewhat of an impact on the trust that customers have in T-Mobile.