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KCOM fined £900,000 after customers left unable to call 999

Tuesday, August 8th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

KCOM has been fined £900,000 after a network failure left customers unable to contact emergency services.

The Hull-based provider’s emergency call service failed for around four hours overnight between 27 and 28 December 2015, something KCOM attributed to flooding in a telephone exchange in York in the wake of Storm Eva.

As a result 74 attempted calls to 999 or 112 from 34 different numbers failed to connect.

Following an investigation, Ofcom found that all emergency calls from customers in the Hull area relied on the flooded telephone exchange in York – a single point of failure in KCOM’s emergency call routing.

According to Ofcom rules, KCOM should have been able to automatically divert emergency calls via alternative routes.

While the provider did have back-up routes in place, these also relied on the same BT telephone exchange.

Within two hours of identifying the problem, KCOM did create an alternative route that bypassed the York exchange completely.

Despite this, Ofcom said the incident amounts to a serious breach of its rules, which require providers to ensure uninterrupted access to emergency services at all times.

The £900,000 fine, which will be passed on to the Treasury, also reflects the impact of the breach on public health and safety.

'Clear warning'

Gaucho Rasmussen, Ofcom’s enforcement and investigations director, said: “Ofcom rules mean that people must be able to call the emergency services around the clock.

“Any failure to connect 999 calls is extremely serious. Today's fine serves as a clear warning to the telecoms industry that it must prioritise access to the emergency services, no matter what the circumstances.”

In June, mobile operator Three was fined £1.9m by Ofcom after an outage left customers in Kent, Hampshire and parts of London unable to call emergency numbers.

Like KCOM, Three’s emergency call service was found to have a single point of failure, in this case a particular data centre.

In the event of an outage there was no alternative way for calls to get through.

Three has since installed a back-up route to carry emergency call traffic.

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