OLYMPIA — State Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Feb. 22 harshly criticized the state Utilities and Transportation Commission for being too soft on CenturyLink for their role in an April 2014 statewide 911 outage that impacted Pacific County.

The UTC on Feb. 22 approved a settlement agreement that will allow CenturyLink to pay a $2.85 million fine — much lower than the $11.5 million fine Ferguson asked the UTC to impose.

“I strongly disagree with the UTC that this resolution is in the public interest. If this failure does not warrant a maximum penalty, I find it hard to imagine what circumstances would,” Ferguson said in a Feb. 22 press release. “Bottom line — CenturyLink is getting off with a slap on the wrist.”

Last year, a UTC investigation found that CenturyLink, which is owned by Qwest Corp., failed to automatically re-route 911 calls during the outage, and failed to maintain and manage the 911 system, as required by law. The outage affected 127 dispatch centers around the state. It affected more than 5,800 911 calls made from cell, landline and Internet-based phone systems, and severely disrupted emergency services for about six hours. CenturyLink was also cited for failing to promptly notify the UTC and 911 call-centers of the outage.

In addition to paying the fine, CenturyLink will be required to report on the reliability of their system, and their progress in implementing the more advanced “Next Generation 911”, according to a Feb. 22 UTC press-release.

The UTC proposed the $2.85 million settlement in Sept. 2015. Ferguson asked the UTC to impose the maximum penalty allowed based on the number of 911 calls affected by the outage, saying that CenturyLink’s failures had endangered Washington citizens.

In the Feb. 22 press release, a UTC spokesperson said the $2.85 million fine “appropriately reflects the nature and extent of the violations, as well as CenturyLink’s actions in the wake of the 911 outage that gave rise to those violations.”

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