AT&T services back up, cause of outage still unknown

AT&T wireless services are back up and running after an hours-long outage Thursday that impacted thousands of customers in the US and triggered several federal agency investigations.

The outage, which AT&T struggled to remediate for more than 10 hours, disrupted calls and text messaging for the 290 million customers covered by its 5G wireless network.

It also caused major problems for dozens of cities reporting 911 emergency services went down across the nation.

“Some of our customers are experiencing wireless service interruptions. We are working urgently to restore service to all who are impacted,” AT&T posted on X nearly six hours into the disruption.

AT&T has not provided a reason for the outage, although it seems a cyberattack has been ruled out at this time.

On its website. the mobile carrier announced it had “restored wireless service to all its affected customers” at 2:10 p.m. CT.

“Keeping our customers connected remains our top priority, and we are taking steps to ensure our customers do not experience this again in the future,” AT&T said.

Earlier in the day, the company stated that its network teams had restored “three-quarters of the AT&T network” by 11:00 a.m. CT.

Internet monitoring site Downdetector started tracking the outage at about 5:00 a.m. CT. During its peak of 9:00 a.m. CT, the tracking service showed 73,942 customers in the US being affected.

Downdetector AT&T outage

Downdetector recorded 51% of AT&T users having problems with their mobile phone service, 40% claimed they had no signal, and another 9% reported issues with their mobile internet.

Feds look for answers

The outage prompted several federal agencies to launch investigations into what actually caused the services to go down, including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

White House spokesman John Kirby said the FBI was also looking into the disruption.

Kirby said there "was some impact to Commerce [Department] but I don't know the extent of that, I don't think it was crippling," adding that the FirstNet nationwide public safety network was also hit but had been fully restored.

"We are being told AT&T has no reason to think this was a cyber or security incident, but the bottom line is we don't have all the answers," Kirby said.

US White House national security spokesperson
US White House national security spokesperson John Kirby. February 8, 2024. Image by Kevin Lamarque | Reuters.

The FBI said it was in touch with the wireless carrier and would respond accordingly, “should we learn of any malicious activity.”

911 emergency services down

During the height of the outage, multiple US city governments posted on X that callers were having problems getting through to emergency 911 services.

"We are aware of an issue impacting AT&T wireless customers from making and receiving any phone calls (including to 911),” the San Francisco Fire Department had posted on X.

At one point, the San Francisco Department Of Emergency Management was instructing people who could not get through to 911 to “please connect to your WiFi network and enable WiFi calling. If WiFi is not available, try calling from a landline.”

The Flagler County Sheriff's Office in Florida immediately posted it was disabling its Rapid SOS feature and asked callers to text 911 during the outage instead.

The emergency services issues across the state prompted Florida Senator Rick Scott to reach out to AT&T for an update due to safety concerns.

"Florida law enforcement is doing everything it can to keep people safe, and I expect AT&T to keep us informed on what it is doing to get 911 services fully back online ASAP," he posted on X.

The Prince William County Police Department in Virginia and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in North Carolina also posted on X about similar issues.

In 2021, T-Mobile was forced to pay $19.5 million to regulators after a 12-hour outage led to more than 20,000 failed 911 emergency calls during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. .

By 3:00 p.m. CT, Downdetector showed just over 1600 customers still reporting issues.

Verizon, T-Mobile, and UScellular customers also experienced limited disruptions Thursday, according to the internet tracker, but the issues are now thought to be related to users trying to piggyback on the other networks.

AT&T has not released a comment on any of the federal investigations.

At one point the San Francisco Department Of Emergency Management was instructing people who could not get through to 911, to “please connect to your Wi-Fi network and enable Wi-Fi calling. If WiFi is not available, try calling from a landline.”