Consolidated Communications has agreed to upgrade its network to prevent a repeat of equipment failures that disrupted emergency 911 services three times over the last three years.
The state opened an investigation into 911 problems after the service was disrupted on Jan. 5, 2016.
A state investigation found that for a five-minute period, no calls could go through. After five minutes, calls were routed through a backup system to state police. Full service was restored in about three hours.
As part of a state investigation, the department hired a technical consultant to evaluate the network – which Consolidated inherited after it acquired FairPoint in 2017. The consultant found that an equipment failure coupled with lack of redundancy caused the problem.
During the investigation, two other incidents occurred that affected 911 service.
Clay Purvis, director of telecommunications at the Vermont Department of Public Service, said 911 is a critical public safety system.
“Anytime there is loss of connectivity to 911, we are always very concerned about that,” Purvis said. “So we felt it was necessary to investigate the causes of this particular outage to ensure that we are doing everything – and Consolidated was doing everything in its power – to make sure that calls get to 911 when they’re supposed to.”
A settlement approved this month by regulators requires Consolidated to improve the resiliency and redundancy of its system.
“I think that if Consolidated implements the recommendations of the report to our satisfaction that it will improve the network,” Purvis said.
Michael Shultz, Consolidated’s vice president for regulatory affairs and public policy, said the company is satisfied with the settlement.
“We worked very closely and collaboratively with the state of Vermont Department of Public Service through this process and believe we have reached an equitable outcome,” Shultz said in a statement emailed to VPR.