The last thing you want to happen in an emergency is a mishandled 911 call, but that’s exactly what happened to hearing-impaired citizens over a span of six months who tried to call 911 through Sprint. Fortunately, the carrier was caught red-handed and will pay the price, reports The Register.
The problem stemmed from the failing of Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS) devices, devices used by the hearing-impaired and deaf in order to make and receive phone calls by the use of a relay operator. This operator would then read the text to the call recipient and would type responses to the caller.
In other words, the service would provide closed-captions for emergency calls.
According to the FTC, Sprint both failed to notice an outage with these devices and report the outage to the FCC from March 28 to Sept. 18. To make matters worse, the FCC also accused Sprint of not only providing false information to the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund, but also continuing to collect reimbursements from the fund during the outage.
As a result of Sprint’s shady actions, the FCC hit the United States’ fourth-largest carrier with a $1.175 million fine. In addition, Sprint must implement a compliance plan to make sure any issues with the IP CTS are detected. Sprint isn’t the only one on the hook, however, as InnoCaption and Hamilton Relay, firms who provide the technology, also let the system fail during the same span of time. In total, the three companies will cough up $1.4 million.
What’s particularly troubling is how Sprint isn’t the first carrier to be handed a fine for having 911 outages. Back in July, T-Mobile was handed a much-stiffer $17.5 million fine for failing to implement safeguards that would have prevented two 911 outages in 2014. Verizon, meanwhile, was hit with a $3.4 million fine back in March for failing to notify 911 operators in California of an outage it had in April of 2014.