911 Outage: Mom Who Confronted Intruder Wants Big CenturyLink Fine | KUOW News and Information

911 Outage: Mom Who Confronted Intruder Wants Big CenturyLink Fine

Jan 11, 2016

Washington state regulators will decide Tuesday whether a $2.9 million fine is enough to punish CenturyLink for a statewide 911 outage.

Alicia Cappola of Everett thinks the fine should be much higher. More than 5,000 emergency calls failed during the six-hour outage in April 2014 -- including 37 that Cappola tried to make after an intruder broke in while her 5-year-old twins were asleep in another room.

"I went into the kitchen and grabbed the biggest threatening knife I had,” she said, “and basically had to go confront him because what are you going to do, just let him come in the house?"

She ended up scaring him off. But Cappola says she has struggled with sleeping problems and anxiety since then.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson says a preventable coding error by CenturyLink caused the problem and its back-up software failed to reroute calls.

To penalize the company, the state's Utilities and Transportation Commission has proposed a $2.9 million settlement.

But last week Ferguson said the fine should be the maximum $11.5 million. A CenturyLink spokesperson called that idea overly punitive.

Ferguson’s office said assault victims, witnesses to car accidents and people suffering heart attacks had their calls fail.

Cappola said a higher fine is needed to send a message to CenturyLink.

"A couple million dollars, you know, is just kind of a drop in the bucket for them,” she said. “I don't really think it's punitive enough to say, 'OK, we really need to make sure this doesn't happen again.’"

She will testify Tuesday for the Attorney General's Office at the commission hearing.

Photo: “Seattle Fire Department Medic One Ambulance (A2)” by Can Pac Swire on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0