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Telco forgot to renew its web domain, broke deaf folks' video calls – now gets a $3m paddlin'

Sorenson dinged after cockup blocked emergency calls

A US telco will cough up $3m after a web domain screwup caused it to drop potentially emergency and other essential video calls from deaf and hearing-impaired people.

Sorenson Communications in Utah will pay America's comms watchdog, the FCC, a $252,000 fine as a result of the blunder. It will also reimburse $2.7m to the regulator.

Sorenson's video relay service (VRS) is used by deaf and hearing-impaired Americans to place calls through an operator via sign language or captioning. The biz receives money through the FCC's Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) fund to operate the VRS as an essential communications service for emergency calls.

According to the FCC, on June 6, 2016, Sorenson suffered a three-day outage that began when it forgot to renew its domain name registration. When the domain was deactivated, customers were unable to connect to the VRS to make calls, cutting them off from emergency numbers and running afoul of FCC availability requirements for essential phone service.

"The FCC has established specific quality requirements for TRS Fund-supported services," the commission explained [PDF] on Friday this week.

"These requirements ensure that persons with hearing or speech disabilities are able to stay connected with friends and family, and access critical services such as 911 in a manner similar to persons without hearing or speech disabilities."

The $2.7m will be used to pay back money Sorenson received from the TRS fund while its service was down. The $252,000 fine will go into the US Treasury.

Sorenson isn't the first telco to face a fine in the wake of a major outage. Big names including CenturyLink, Verizon and Sprint have all faced hefty penalties from the commission for service breaks that cut people off from reaching 911 and emergency services. ®

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