AT&T customers reporting massive outage; 911 call center not affected

Published 9:02 am Thursday, February 22, 2024

Thousands of private AT&T wireless customers lost service Thursday morning, affecting more than 74,000 people. Some people have been unable to place calls, texts, or access the internet.

The Brookhaven/Lincoln County 9-1-1 Call Center remains unaffected, however.

“We’re still getting 9-1-1 calls,” said Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Chris Reid. “We’re not affected, as far as people getting in touch with us.”

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The high number of outages reported only represents people who have self-reported outages, however. AT&T acknowledged it has a widespread outage, but did not provide a reason.

“Some of our customers are experiencing wireless service interruptions this morning. We are working urgently to restore service to them,” AT&T said in a statement. “We encourage the use of Wi-Fi calling until service is restored.”

The company said some parts of its network are beginning to recover but it did not have a timeframe for when its system would be fully restored. AT&T has been responding to customer complaints online, asking them to send direct messages to customer service.

Cricket Wireless, Verizon, T-Mobile and Boost Mobile each reported numerous outages, as well.


Why AT&T went down

AT&T has encountered sporadic outages over the past few days, including a temporary 911 outage in some parts of the southeastern United States. Although outages happen from time to time, nationwide, prolonged outages are exceedingly rare.

Although AT&T provided no official reason for the outage, the issue appears to be related to how cellular services hand off calls from one network to the next, a process known as peering, according to an industry source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

There’s no indication that Thursday’s outage was the result of a cyberattack or other malicious activity, the industry source said.

Verizon believes the nationwide outage involving AT&T customers “is close to being resolved,” according to Richard Young, a Verizon spokesman.

Carriers are notoriously mum about why their networks go down. In the past, there have been construction accidents that have cut fiberoptic cables, incidents of sabotage or network updates filled with bugs that became difficult to roll back.

Local governments report outages

Several local governments said AT&T’s outage was disrupting its services. San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management, New York Police Department, and a some other governments said they were having issues, and suggested AT&T customers make calls while on wi-fi.

An AT&T spokesman said the company’s FirstNet network has remained operational. FirstNet provides coverage for first responders and is advertised as a more robust network than the AT&T commercial network. It uses a mix of its own infrastructure plus AT&T’s broader network. Its customers include police and fire departments, as well as first responders during natural disasters.

CNN contributed to this story.