The Federal Communications Commission hit a U.S. communications with penalties totalling almost $3 million last week following a preventable service outage that affected a communications service utilised by Americans with disabilities, and all because the company failed to renew their domain name in 2016.
The FCC reached a settlement with Sorenson Communications following the outage with the company agreeing to provide enhanced notices to consumers during outages, and pay $2.7 million to reimburse the Telecommunications Relay Services Fund and a $252,000 penalty.
Video relay service, a form of telecommunications relay service, enables people who are deaf, hard-of-hearing or speech disabled to make calls over broadband through intermediaries using American Sign Language and video equipment. VRS is funded through the Telecommunications Relay Service Fund.
To qualify for reimbursement, VRS providers must comply with the Communications Act and FCC rules, which require that services be able at all times to handle any type of call normally provided by carriers, including 911 calls.
In 2016, Sorenson failed to renew its domain name, and on 6 June, Sorenson’s website’s domain registration was deactivated. As a result, consumers’ calls made through this domain failed to connect, resulting in a service outage.
Service was not fully restored until 8 June. The Commission’s investigation found the outage was preventable. The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau investigated this incident and reached today’s settlement with the company.