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Verizon’s rate of dropped 911 calls during recent snowstorm is ‘truly alarming,’ FCC says

Verizon LogoCue the deluge of AT&T subscribers making jokes about dropped calls on the newly iPhone-friendly Verizon Wireless network… right… about… NOW. The Federal Communications Commission is calling out Verizon for its more than 10,000 dropped calls in a Washington, D.C. suburb during the January 26 snowstorm, Bloomberg reports.

Referring to the figure as “truly alarming” in an e-mail to the carrier, FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security chief Jamie Barnett expressed concern about the possibly far-reaching implications of this issue. “We are particularly concerned that this problem may be widespread across Verizon’s footprint,” he wrote. The federal agency is now calling for the wireless carrier to perform an investigation to determine the extent of the problem.

Verizon was quick to respond of course, with a public statement from company spokesman Harry Mitchell. “We have been addressing this issue directly with the counties involved, and will work cooperatively to address the FCC’s questions, as well,” he said.

It is a troubling development for Verizon subscribers of course, but it also spells looming public relations woes for the company. The launch of the Verizon iPhone 4 has been carried along by the widespread belief that the carrier’s wireless network is more stable than former iPhone exclusivity holder AT&T, whose subscribers often complain of frequently dropped calls. While this is likely a result of the heavy network load created by the widespread adoption of the iPhone, public opinion remains a powerful determining factor in judging a company’s reliability.

In fairness, the Verizon iPhone launched on February 10, several weeks after the January 26 snowstorm, and reports have indicated that the network is handling the increased load just fine so far. That said, a report from the FCC detailing a rash of dropped calls is probably going to give at least a few potential carrier-switching iPhone buyers pause.