UPDATED: FCC & NY probe AT&T outage

  • FCC has now opened a formal investigation into the disruption

  • NY Attorney General is investigating the AT&T outage

  • The operator is already talking to the SEC and the U.S. government about the disruption that impacted 70,000+ customers

Update 3/8/2024 4:26 pm ET: Fierce received commentary from the FCC on the AT&T probe, confirming the investigation is taking place.

“The FCC is carrying out a thorough investigation into a nationwide outage of the AT&T network that affected millions of consumers and disrupted access to lifesaving communications," said the spokesperson in an email. "As a next step to that ongoing inquiry, the agency has requested more in-depth information from AT&T concerning the cause, effect, and the company's response to the incident. Given the sensitive nature of this matter, we will not comment further on the details of this investigation.” 

Update 3/8/2024 11:00 am ET: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is intensifying its probe of AT&T's February 22 nationwide outage. The agency told several media outlets Thursday it would conduct a formal investigation into the disruption, asking AT&T for more information on the reasons for the disruption. 

"The industry routinely cooperates with our key regulators in the aftermath of serious outages to evaluate how network resiliency and reliability can be improved," an AT&T spokesperson told us.  "We are already working with the FCC on its review.”

The New York Office of the Attorney General has already launched a probe into the AT&T outage of February 22, investigating the causes of the 12-hour disruption and AT&T’s response to it.

“Nationwide outages are not just an inconvenience they can be dangerous,” New York Attorney General Laetitia James said in a statement last week, urging all affected NY customers to file a complaint.

AT&T has blamed the outage, which affected more than 70,000 customers nationwide, on an internal process error. New York, Chicago, Miami and Houston were listed as cities most affected by the network disruption, according to Downdetector.

Still, the New York Attorney General is interested in 911 service disruptions that resulted from the AT&T outage.

Jeff McElfresh, COO of AT&T, added a little more detail on the outage, during a Morgan Stanley conference on Monday, March 4, 2024. Talking about the process error, he said: “I mean, we do these kinds of things hundreds of times a night in the maintenance window, and it was the incorrect application of a process that created this.”

He said that AT&T is already – and will continue — having discussions with the SEC and portions of the government on the outage.

As commentators have said, the nationwide outage was likely caused by an early morning software update to a database that caused the service to fail spectacularly — and we’ll update you if AT&T comments further on the cause.

This story was originally published on March 5, 2024 at 11:54 AM ET.