Editor’s note: This news release reflects the position of the staff of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) and NOT the views of the three-member commission. It discusses a staff recommendation that the commissioners have not formally reviewed. Any positions taken or comments offered by the commission staff regarding this proceeding should be attributed clearly to staff members and NOT to the UTC.
CenturyLink faces penalties for November 2013 service outage in San Juan Islands
OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) today released its investigative report on CenturyLink’s November 2013 voice and data outage in the San Juan Islands. In the report, state regulatory staff recommend the commission order more than $170,000 in penalties against the company.
A penalty would be in addition to credits, totaling $271,000, that the company credited to the accounts of customers affected by the outage. The company has also committed more than $500,000 for system improvements to ensure back-up service in the event of a future outage.
UTC staff initiated the investigation to look into the cause of the outage, the company’s emergency preparedness and response, restoration efforts, and communication with the public.
The investigation found that the 10-day service outage resulted from a severed underwater fiber cable that separated the Friday Harbor switch from the CenturyLink network. The investigation also concludes that the company violated state laws and rules related to major outages, as well as, requirements for communicating outage information to the public.
On Dec. 9, 2013, the commission held a public hearing in Friday Harbor to hear from local customers and government agencies impacted by the outage. Attendees expressed dissatisfaction with CenturyLink’s infrastructure, equipment and service; communication during and immediately following the outage; and the service restoration timeframe.
In the investigation report, UTC staff recommend the commission issue a formal complaint against the company with a penalty of up to $173,210 for 15,935 violations of commission laws and rules.
Commission staff also recommended that CenturyLink be required to make improvements to the infrastructure serving the San Juan Islands, and report annually to the commission on the status and results of maintenance and inspections of the system. The company has committed to make infrastructure improvements by early 2015.
The UTC regulates the rates and services of telecommunications companies, investor-owned electric utilities, natural gas and water companies, garbage-collection haulers, household-goods movers and charter-bus companies, commercial ferries, pipeline companies, and a low-level radioactive waste repository. The commission does not regulate broadband or Internet services, including those provided by regulated telecommunications companies.