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Sprint fined $1.2m for bungling 911 calls

Watchdog puts US telco on the expensive naughty step

Sprint has been fined over $1m by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) after it cocked up 911 calls for hearing-impaired citizens.

The FCC accused the US telco of failing to handle emergency calls made by wireless customers who were using Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS) devices. The outage, which the watchdog said Sprint failed to notice or report to the FCC, ran for nearly six months in 2014, extending from March 28 to September 18.

IP CTS devices are used by deaf and hearing-impaired people to make and receive phone calls via a relay operator who reads the text to the call recipient and types responses back to the caller.

While service outages themselves are not illegal, the failure to provide emergency call services poses a public safety hazard and subjects carriers to fines from the FCC.

Sprint was also accused of sending inaccurate information to the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund and collecting reimbursements during the time it was unable to accept the IP CTS emergency calls.

To settle the matter, Sprint has signed a consent decree with the FCC that will see the company admit to the outage, pay out a $1.175m fine, and reimburse the money it collected from the TRS Fund. Sprint will also be required to institute a compliance plan with the FCC to detect any future problems with its IP CTS service.

Sprint is one of three US companies (the other two being InnoCaption and Hamilton Relay) who were dinged by the FCC for botching IP CTS calls. In total, the three companies are paying $1.4m, the majority of that coming from Sprint's $1.175m fine.

"Today's settlements reaffirm our commitment to ensure that the hard-of-hearing community has essential 911 service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," said FCC enforcement bureau chief Travis LeBlanc.

"Not only are we fining these companies for failing to provide this vital service, but we are assuring that they provide it going forward.” ®

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