KCOM Hit With £900,000 Fine For 999 Call Failures

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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KCOM had a single point of failure in the way it handles emergency calls, Ofcom finds

Hull-based telecoms operator KCOM has been fined £900,000 after a “serious weakness” in how its network handles emergency calls led to 74 failed attempts to dial 999 or 112. 

For historical reasons, KCOM enjoys an almost near-fixed line monopoly in the city, which is not served by BT. 

During a four-hour period in December 2015, calls to the emergency services in the Hull area were rendered impossible because of a flooded BT exchange in York following Storm Eva. 

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KCOM 999 fine 

Ofcom rules require operators to have a backup route in case of a failure. KCOM did have two such routes in place (via Sheffield and Leeds), however both went through the same exchange, creating a single point of failure. 

KCOM notified Ofcom about the issue and was able to establish an alternative route within two hours, however the regulator said the fine reflected the serious nature of the threat to public safety. 

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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, Three was fined £1.9 million because of a weakness in its emergency service procedures. 

An investigation following an outage in parts of south east England last October discovered that such calls were routed through a data centre, creating a single point of failure that could have prevented people from reaching an operator. 

Three’s network should have been able to able to automatically divert emergency calls through alternative routes in the event of a local outage, but because all traffic passed through this single data centre this would have failed. 

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