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New York attorney general investigating AT&T network outage

Engineers install a "cell-on-wheels" used for AT&T's 4G LTE and 5G wireless networks. (Courtesy photo)
Engineers install a “cell-on-wheels” used for AT&T’s 4G LTE and 5G wireless networks. (Courtesy photo)

New York’s top law enforcement officer has launched an investigation into a massive wireless network outage that left AT&T customers unable to use their mobile devices last month.

On Thursday, New York State Attorney General Letitia James said her office has opened a probe into the cause of the outage as well as AT&T’s response to the issue.

“Americans rely on cell service providers for consistent and reliable service to help them with nearly every aspect of their daily lives,” James said in a statement. “Nationwide outages are not just an inconvenience, they can be dangerous, and it’s critical that we protect consumers when an outage occurs. I encourage any New Yorker who was affected by this disruption to file a complaint with my office.”

The incident happened on February 22 when millions of customers across the country were unable to make phone calls or use wireless data on AT&T’s 4G LTE and 5G networks. The issue affected nearly all AT&T customers, including small businesses, first responders and government subscribers.

During the outage, there was rampant speculation that the issue was caused by a cyberattack, something AT&T later denied. Instead, the cause of the outage was traced to an errant software update during routine maintenance and upgrades to AT&T’s 5G network, an issue that cascaded throughout the company’s service footprint.

Executives with AT&T later apologized for the issue, and offered some customers a $5 bill credit if they were impacted. Eligible customers who will automatically receive the credit include those with post-paid consumer and small business lines. AT&T said prepaid phone users would not automatically receive the credit, but affirmed the company might extend a credit to some subscribers on a case-by-case basis if they can demonstrate they were impacted by the issue.

AT&T has over 200 prepaid and postpaid wireless lines.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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