If you listened to rap music in the early 1990s, you undoubtedly heard Flava Flav spit rhymes to "911 is a Joke," the song he is most famous for. However, it was no laughing matter when mobile phone users subscribed to AT&T's wireless service were unable to call 911 emergency dispatchers in more than a dozen states on Wednesday night. Service has since been restored, but given the seriousness of the situation, the FCC has opened an investigation into what went wrong.
During the outage, law enforcement and emergency response officials were on social media warning people across the nation of the trouble AT&T was having. The outage lasted around five hours, with AT&T indicating at 10:30 PM that it has fixed the problem.
"Service has been restored for wireless customers affected by an issue connecting to 911," AT&T said in a statement. "We apologize to those affected."
AT&T did not say what the problem was or how it corrected the situation, saying only that it's been fixed. The warnings started around 5:49 PM when the Monongalia County Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency in West Virginia posted an alert on Facebook. It along with other emergency services around the nation advised people in need of help to call in direct through local telephone numbers, which were posted to Facebook as well.
No small deal, AT&T is the second largest wireless company in the United States behind only Verizon. At the end of 2016, AT&T reported having 135 million wireless subscribers in the U.S. It is not clear how many of those subscribers were affected by the 911 outage.