On the 25th of June, a technical fault almost completely prevented the availability of UK emergency services. This led to BT to temporarily switch to a back-up system, that was pointed out by London’s Metropolitan Police to be ineffective at some necessary services, such as providing location data. This made it much harder to pinpoint exactly where these emergencies were happening. They also reminded the public to truly only call in an emergency.
Sky News compiled a list of police, fire and ambulance services across the country that revealed some had been advising the public to call the non-life threatening emergency number, 111, instead.
The outage was brought up in Parliament soon after, during which Lord Camrose, the technology minister, noted that it had taken BT nearly three hours to notify the government of any problem.
BT apologised directly for the issues.
Following this outage, Ofcom have decided to open an investigation on BT to look for any rule breaches.
In their announcement, Ofcom state that BT and other providers need to take ”all necessary measures to ensure uninterrupted access to emergency organisations as part of any call services offered”.
Ofcom regulations also stipulate that telcos need to take ”appropriate and proportionate measures to identify and reduce the risks of, and prepare fro the occurrence of, anything that compromises the availability, performance or functionality of their network or service,” and must also implement systems to prevent any adverse affects arising from any such compromise.
”Our investigation will seek to establish the facts surrounding the incident and examine whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that BT has failed to comply with its regulatory obligations,” Ofcom have said.
At this time, Ofcom haven’t stated any possible consequences if BT are found with any breaches.
That doesn’t mean that there won’t be any, however. Ofcom have the power to impose penalties for rule-breaking telcos. Several factors decide just what the penalties are, however, including the size and revenue of the telco, the seriousness and duration of the violation, as well as the harm it caused and what was in place to prevent it, and so on.