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Ofcom: “reasonable grounds for belief” KCOM failed to maintain emergency services access

David Bicknell Published 11 October 2016

Ofcom investigation followed KCom’s own notification to the communications watchdog of a “temporary reduction in availability of its network”


Ofcom has said it has found that there are “reasonable grounds for believing” that Hull-based communications provider KCOM “failed to take sufficient measures” to maintain uninterrupted telephone access  to emergency services on the 999 and 112 numbers in breach of GC3.1(c) from 25 February 2009 to 28 December 2015.

Ofcom opened the case in February this year having been notified by KCOM itself of a temporary reduction in the availability of its network under Section 105(B) of the Communications Act 2003. It has been reported that the reduction in availability occurred as a result of damaged caused as a result of Storm Eva at the end of January 2016.

In a statement, Ofcom said, “Following an investigation, Ofcom has determined that there are reasonable grounds for believing that KCOM contravened General Condition 3.1(c) from 25 February 2009 to 28 December 2015. Ofcom has therefore issued a Notification to KCOM under section 96A of the Communications Act 2003.

“Specifically, Ofcom has reasonable grounds for believing that KCOM failed to take sufficient measures to maintain uninterrupted telephone access  to emergency services on 999 and 112 in breach of GC3.1(c). Given the findings in relation to GC3.1(c), Ofcom did not go on to consider whether KCOM has contravened section 105A of the Act.

“KCOM now has an opportunity to make representations to Ofcom on the matters contained in the Notification before Ofcom makes a final decision in accordance with section 96C of the Communications Act 2003.”

In an earlier statement, Ofcom had said section 105A(1) of the Act requires communications providers (CPs) to take  “technical and organisational measures to manage risks to the security of public electronic communications networks and services. These must include measures to prevent or minimise the impact of security incidents on end-users (section 105A(2)) and on interconnection (section 105A(3)).”

It went on, “GC3.1 requires communications providers (CPs) to take all necessary measures to maintain, to the greatest extent possible, the proper and effective functioning of its network at all times, the fullest availability of its network and services in cases of force majeure, and uninterrupted access to emergency  organisations for their end-users.”

Explaining the original notification and subsequent investigation, a KCOM spokesperson said, “This investigation relates to a temporary loss of our 999 service, which was impacted for a short time while we re-routed some call traffic. The investigation reviewed our arrangements for routing call traffic and has sought to identify if there are additional steps that needed to be put in place. This is a draft decision by Ofcom, which we will be reviewing carefully over the coming weeks. We take our regulatory obligations seriously and will be working closely with Ofcom to address any concerns that are highlighted and to ensure that the final decision accurately reflects the situation.”

If KCom’s fixed infrastructure can be affected by natural conditions such as a storm such that it impacts the provision of uninterrupted access to emergency services organisations for their end users, it may be reasonable to question whether the same Communications Act regulations  - 105A1,2,3 and GC3.1 - will also apply to the introduction of the shared 4G EE infrastructure required by the future Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) and any future impact of any “force majeure” on that infrastructure.

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