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AT&T Says Service Is Restored After Widespread Cellular Outage

White House officials said the incident was under investigation, but it did not appear to be a cyberattack. Verizon and T-Mobile said their networks were operating normally.

The AT&T logo.

By Jenny Gross and David McCabe

Jenny Gross reported from London and David McCabe reported from Washington.

AT&T said on Thursday that it had fully restored service to its wireless network after a widespread outage temporarily cut off connections for users across the United States for many hours, the cause of which was still under investigation.

The outage, which affected people in cities including Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York, was first reported around 3:30 a.m. Eastern time, according to Downdetector.com , which tracks user reports of telecommunication and internet disruptions. At its peak, the site listed around 70,000 reports of disrupted service for the wireless carrier.

Multiple government agencies said they were looking into the incident, although the Biden administration told reporters that AT&T said there was no reason to think it was a cyberattack.

AT&T did not disclose the scope of the outage, nor the reason for it. When the outage first began on Thursday morning, the company listed the cause as “maintenance activity.”

Jim Greer, an AT&T spokesman, apologized in a statement confirming service was restored and said the company was “taking steps to ensure our customers do not experience this again in the future.”

The outage underscored the importance of connectivity to daily life as individuals and businesses were cut off from communications and the ability to use mobile apps. AT&T advised consumers they could make calls over Wi-Fi and sought to respond to angry customers online. Many phones showed an “SOS” symbol on their screen, signaling they could only make emergency calls, while local governments offered alternate ways to reach 911.

Reports of outages on Downdetector began to fall midmorning, and at one point AT&T’s website showed that outages were limited to users in California , though users in other states were still reporting issues. Cricket, which is owned by AT&T, also reported that its users were experiencing wireless service interruptions and said it was working to restore service.

Reports also surfaced early Thursday that FirstNet, the network AT&T maintains for emergency services personnel, had experienced outages, but AT&T said around 10:30 a.m. that the network was fully operational.

Verizon experienced 3,000 reports of outages at one point on Thursday and T-Mobile about half that. Both companies said in statements that their networks were operating normally.

“Some customers experienced issues this morning when calling or texting with customers served by another carrier,” Verizon said. “We are continuing to monitor the situation.”

In an email, T-Mobile said that it did not experience an outage. “Downdetector is likely reflecting challenges our customers were having attempting to connect to users on other networks.”

Officials in Washington said they were working to understand the cause of the outage. A spokesman for the Federal Communications Commission said its inquiry was being handled by its Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, which was in touch with AT&T as well as other providers.

John Kirby, a National Security Council spokesman, said on a call with reporters on Thursday that the Biden administration was told “that AT&T has no reason to think this was a cybersecurity incident,” although he added that they would not be certain until an investigation had been completed.

Mr. Kirby said that, in addition to the F.C.C., the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. were collaborating with technology companies to investigate the outage.

The F.B.I. said in a statement it was in touch with AT&T and would respond accordingly if any malicious activity was found.

Throughout the day, cities urged residents to find alternate ways of reaching emergency or municipal services, like landlines or phones connected to Wi-Fi. The City of Upper Arlington, Ohio , said the fire department might not be notified of fire alarms because of the outage. It urged that any fire alarm be followed up with a 911 call.

The San Francisco Fire Department said on social media that it was aware of an issue affecting AT&T users who were trying to call 911. “We are actively engaged and monitoring this,” the fire department said. “If you are an AT&T customer and cannot get through to 911, then please try calling from a landline.”

The Massachusetts State Police said on social media on Thursday morning that 911 call centers across the state had been flooded with calls from people checking to see if the emergency service worked from their phones. “Please do not do this,” the police said. “If you can successfully place a non-emergency call to another number via your cell service then your 911 service will also work.”

Even in less extreme circumstances, the outage complicated the many elements of life that have come to rely on a reliable connection to the internet.

Staff at the First Watch restaurant in Dania Beach, Fla., had to turn away breakfast customers for a time while the outage prevented them from processing payments.

Debra Maddow, who lives in southwest Houston, said that she first noticed something was off after 7 a.m., when she went to check traffic and Google Maps was offline. Later, she visited a Starbucks to make an urgent call through its free Wi-Fi, she said.

“I’m really frustrated that they’re not telling us anything,” Ms. Maddow said in a phone interview over Wi-Fi. She said she tried to call AT&T for an update, but after a long time on hold, the call was dropped.

Victor Mather , John Keefe , Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Adam Goldman contributed reporting.

Jenny Gross is a reporter for The Times in London covering breaking news and other topics. More about Jenny Gross

David McCabe covers tech policy. He joined The Times from Axios in 2019. More about David McCabe

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AT&T announces plan to offer $5 credit after major outage disrupted mobile network

The dallas-based company will offer a credit to customers impacted by thursday’s outage..

AT&T's headquarters building in downtown Dallas.

By Zaeem Shaikh

5:00 AM on Feb 25, 2024 CST

AT&T plans to offer some credit to customers impacted by a nationwide outage this week to its mobile services, company officials said Saturday.

The Dallas-based telecommunications giant apologized in a statement for Thursday’s disruptions that impacted tens of thousands of people as well as those with other cellular carriers who attempted to reach the company’s mobile network users.

“We recognize the frustration this outage caused and know we let many of our customers down,” company officials wrote in a statement on AT&T’s website . “We understand this may have impacted their ability to connect with family, friends and others. Small business owners may have been impacted, potentially disrupting an essential way they connect with customers.”

Officials want “to help make it right” by automatically applying a credit to impacted customers’ accounts, they wrote. According to the company, each person would receive one $5 credit on their AT&T WirelessSM account — the equivalent of what officials say is the average cost of a full day of service.

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The offer doesn’t apply to AT&T Business, AT&T Prepaid or Cricket, officials said, and it will typically be applied within two bill cycles.

Reports of outages to the company’s mobile service began about 2 a.m. Thursday. By 8:15 a.m. over 73,000 customers reported cellular outages to Downdetector.com , which tracks disruptions to services.

The outage also disrupted FirstNet, AT&T’s emergency response network .

Related: What to know about AT&T’s cellular network outage

By 2 p.m., AT&T had fully restored wireless service to all customers, officials said. Speculation fueled initially on why wireless subscribers lost service, with some pinning the disruptions on powerful solar flares . Federal government agencies were investigating the disruption.

The company later blamed the incident on an error in coding .

“Based on our initial review, we believe that today’s outage was caused by the application and execution of an incorrect process used as we were expanding our network, not a cyber attack,” an AT&T spokesperson said.

In the Saturday statement, company officials said they’re taking steps to prevent this from happening again in the future but did not elaborate.

“Our priority is to continuously improve and be sure our customers stay connected,” AT&T officials wrote.

Zaeem Shaikh

Zaeem Shaikh , Staff, Reporter . Zaeem Shaikh is a reporter covering breaking news for The Dallas Morning News. He grew up in Fresno, California, and graduated from Fresno State University in 2022. Before joining The News, he has reported for The Sacramento Bee, CalMatters and the Oregonian.

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COMMENTS

  1. AT&T Says Service Is Restored After Widespread Cellular Outage

    Feb. 22, 2024 Updated 7:52 a.m. ET. Several phone service providers, including AT&T, were down for many users across the United States early Thursday, according to Downdetector.com, which tracks ...

  2. AT&T says cell service fully restored after major outage disrupts

    A nationwide service outage affecting multiple cell phone providers appears to be slowly resolving. Those with phones still showing SOS should be able to reach 9-1-1 if needed. Calls to our non ...

  3. AT&T announces plan to offer $5 credit after major outage

    By Zaeem Shaikh. 5:00 AM on Feb 25, 2024 CST. LISTEN. AT&T plans to offer some credit to customers impacted by a nationwide outage this week to its mobile services, company officials said Saturday ...

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  5. Best Family Phone Plans (2024): Best Tello Cell Phone Plans

    Compare Before Buying presents its review of Tello Mobile, highlighting the telco’s best family phone plans. Boston, United States - February 21, 2024 — Tello Mobile’s commitment to meeting ...