911 file photo

A dispatcher is pictured working at the Athens County 911 Center in this 2018 file photo.

The Athens 911 Center was having issues with emergency calls connecting to dispatchers in early March due to internet provider error, but the issue has since been temporarily mitigated, the Athens County 911 director said.

This issue is not ongoing and only affected the center on March 10.

Teresa Fouts-Imler, Athens County 911 director, told The Athens Messenger there had been a brief issue with 911 dispatching calls not connecting immediately, but on a 15 to 20 second delay.

The issue was detected on March 10 after the center received calls from a resident who informed the center that calls were not connecting, Fouts-Imler said. She said although the issue is still ongoing, the Hocking County 911 Office has been accepting Athens County calls and immediately redirecting to the Athens County 911 Center.

“Anybody calling would not know there was an issue,” Fouts-Imler said.

Fouts-Imler said the technical issue was not the fault of the 911 center, but rather the center’s telecommunications provider, Frontier Communications.

“It was caught and we got on it pretty quick so it’s a Frontier issue and it’s out of the control of the 911 center,” Fouts-Imler said.

Javier Mendoza, spokesperson for Frontier, acknowledged that there was a brief issue with the service, but that technicians resolved it.

“All 911 services are in order, tested and have continued uninterrupted,” Mendoza said. “Frontier is dedicated to safety and takes seriously its commitment to serve its customers and support 911 services in Athens County and the Ohio communities we serve.”

This is not the first time the center has had issues with Frontier, The Athens Messenger previously reported.

In 2018, Athens County filed a complaint with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio concerning an outage of 911 service in that year.

That year, former interim 911 Center Director Aaron Maynard told The Messenger that Athens County is supposed to receive an alert when the system is down, but that didn’t happen.

Fouts-Imler told The Athens Messenger she is awaiting a detailed report from Frontier.

“They are diligently working on it and they know it’s a problem,” Fouts-Imler said. “I believe their team of engineers are working on it.”

Fouts-Imler said the new fiber optics internet, or high-speed cable internet, has caused numerous issues for the center in the past, and is the likely cause of the current delays.

She said the outages caused from fiber optics is not an issue native to Athens County, but is something 911 centers across the country have faced as that internet medium has increased in use.

In December 2018, the Federal Communications Commission launched an investigation into telecommunications giant CenturyLink following a massive internet outage that led to many 911 calls not being connected, The Detroit Free Press reported. At least 886 calls to 911 were not delivered, an FCC investigation found.

The Athens Messenger found many other examples of issues with fiber optic causing 911 service outages through internet searching.

The Federal Communications Commission regulates 911 service providers and mandates that phone service providers “transmit all wireless 911 calls.” Long-standing outages or poor performance by phone service providers can lead to FCC investigations or fines.

Fouts-Imler said Frontier knows that “in the past, coming into Athens has been a problem,” and that the company may plan to redirect some fiber optic cable that feeds to the building.

“When the phone companies went fiber optic — it became a problem,” Fouts-Imler said.

Mendoza acknowledged issues like this sometimes arise, but Frontier will "apply learning from this situation to enhance our process."

She also thanked Hocking County 911 Office for assisting The Athens County 911 Center with call redirection.

“We help them out the same way they help us out,” she said.

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