AT&T outage left cell phone-dependent Alaskans unable to call 911

Originally posted: March 24, 2016 at 7:06 PM

With Alaska growing more dependent on cell phones, Wednesday’s cell phone outage for AT&T customers served as a wake up call for “cord cutters” without an emergency communication backup plan.

For hours, some AT&T cell phones across Anchorage were unable to make calls, prompting the Anchorage Police Department to send out a notification to the public. APD officials said it’s important to know where an alternative line of communication can be found to reach the city’s 911 dispatch in case of an emergency.

“About 88 percent of our calls into dispatch come from wireless lines, not landlines,” said APD spokesperson Jennifer Castro. “The most important thing is to have some kind of plan.”

Castro recommended having a backup landline or knowing someone who lives close by with a landline.

But landlines in Anchorage homes are disappearing.

“Landlines continue to decrease. Right now, approximately 40 percent of users only have wireless,” said GCI spokesperson David Morris.

GCI is the second largest provider of landlines in the state, Alaska Communication is the largest provider. At the end of 2015, Alaska Communication served 114,281 landlines across the state. About 32 percent of those lines went directly into homes.

“Older and older generations now also rely on cell phones as their primary means of communication,” said vice president for Verizon Alaska Demian Voiles.

An AT&T company spokesperson confirmed the faulty piece of hardware responsible for Wednesday’s outages has been replaced. The company said it’s confident the issue is resolved.