Massive AT&T Network outage: 4 things to know about

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Written By Vikas Jangid

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On Thursday, a large number of Americans encountered challenges in making calls, sending texts, reaching emergency services, and accessing the internet due to an outage lasting nearly 12 hours in the AT&T network.

Additionally, one police department mentioned receiving a surge of calls to their 911 line from people testing if their cell phones were working.

The concern over such a significant disruption in a major cell network, impacting over 70,000 customers at one point, is quite understandable.

Source: Twitter/ATTNEWS

People have grown highly dependent on their cell phones for staying connected with work and family, navigating, going online, and securing website logins with two-factor authentication.

There are also more critical uses, like reaching out for help in emergencies.

The incident sparked concerns about whether the outage could have been caused by malicious activity and if it poses a continuing threat to US cell networks.

However, there's currently no evidence suggesting that malicious actors were responsible for the outage.

AT&T eventually restored wireless service to all customers by approximately 3 pm ET, and the company expressed genuine apologies to its customers.

Who was affected By AT&T?

If you're a Verizon or T-Mobile user without connections to AT&T, you might not have been aware of the problem on Thursday, as those competing carriers weren't impacted.

However, from early Thursday morning, numerous AT&T customers started experiencing difficulties with making calls, sending texts, and using the internet on their mobile phones.

At one stage, over 74,000 AT&T customers reported issues on the digital service monitoring site DownDetector.

This number only reflects self-reported problems, suggesting that the actual count of affected customers was likely even higher.

AT&T Network Outage

Before Thursday's incident, AT&T had experienced occasional outages throughout the week, including a temporary 911 service interruption in certain parts of the southeastern United States. While regional disruptions occur from time to time, prolonged nationwide outages are exceptionally uncommon.

Within a few hours on Thursday, the number of affected customers started to decrease. By approximately 3 pm ET, AT&T announced that the issue had been completely resolved.

Several local governments reported on Thursday that the AT&T outage was causing disruptions, and in some instances, AT&T customers couldn't reach emergency services and had to resort to using a landline or a phone from a different carrier.

New York Police Department officials informed CNN that they couldn't make calls or access emails on AT&T phones Thursday morning unless they were connected to Wi-Fi.

Nonetheless, an AT&T spokesperson clarified that the company's FirstNet network continued to function despite the outage.

FirstNet is dedicated to providing coverage for first responders such as police and fire departments and is marketed as a more resilient network compared to the AT&T commercial network.

It combines its own infrastructure with AT&T's broader network to ensure reliability and coverage.

What caused the outage?

AT&T posted an update on Thursday evening, saying that the company does not believe the outage was due to a cyberattack.

“Based on our initial review, we believe that today’s outage was caused by the application and execution of an incorrect process used as we were expanding our network, not a cyber attack.

We are continuing our assessment of today’s outage to ensure we keep delivering the service that our customers deserve,” the company posted.

Source: Youtube/ABC News

What did government officials have to say?

Several federal agencies are actively investigating the incident, including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Homeland Security.

The FCC issued a statement on Thursday afternoon confirming their awareness of the reported wireless outages and stating that their Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau is conducting an active investigation. They mentioned being in communication with AT&T, public safety authorities, including FirstNet, and other service providers.

In a statement to CNN, the FBI confirmed that they are in contact with AT & T regarding the outage and added that they will respond accordingly should they discover any malicious activity.

The White House also responded to the situation on Thursday, stating that federal agencies are in communication with AT & T regarding the network outages. However, they admitted that they do not yet have all the answers regarding the cause of the interruptions.

White House National Security spokesman John Kirby emphasized that investigations are ongoing and stated, "The bottom line is we don’t have all the answers to that... And so we’re working very hard to see if we can get to the ground truth of exactly what happened."

How did AT&T respond?

AT&T swiftly took action to restore approximately three-quarters of the network by around midday Eastern time. Then, roughly 12 hours after the outages initially occurred, AT&T declared that it had completely restored service to affected customers.

In a statement, the company expressed sincere apologies to its customers, emphasizing that keeping them connected remains their top priority. They also assured steps are being taken to prevent such incidents in the future.

Telecom industry experts suggest that AT&T might face potential fines due to the 911 outages, although it's not certain.

Numerous frustrated customers took to social media to voice their grievances and criticized the company for what appeared to be a lack of transparency regarding the situation and the restoration timeline.

On the X platform, AT & T's official customer service account encouraged customers to send direct messages to the company.

Following the outage, AT&T's share price closed more than 2% lower on Thursday, coinciding with a day when the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average reached record highs.

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