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Phone outages sweep the state

Phones at Western were included in the outage. // Photo by Oliver Hamlin

By Claudia Cooper 

A state-wide phone outage on Sunday, Jan. 6 marks the latest in a pattern of phone outages across Washington that have affected services such as Western’s Counseling Center and the University Police emergency hotline.

Western’s community was informed about the most recent outage via a Western Alert. About one in five calls to on-campus phones and University Police dispatch fail, according to the email. Western’s staff is now working with the phone company in order to resolve this issue, the email stated.  

There have been multiple Western Alerts sent out regarding campus phone and emergency call box outages during this academic year, the first of which was sent to students and faculty on Sep. 27, 2018 addressing the outage of the blue emergency telephones. The outages occurred after phone lines were down due to the vendor of the emergency phones being in the path of Hurricane Florence on the East Coast.

In October 2018, multiple emails were sent regarding an outage of on-campus phones, meaning University Police dispatch could not receive calls in case of an emergency. Western Advisory offered alternate phone numbers to be used in order to reach University Police in a state of emergency as well as a community mental health hotline due to the Counseling Center phones being a part of this outage. Western staff was working to restore phone lines as soon as possible. The problem was eventually fixed on Oct. 26, 2018, two days after the initial outage due to a firewall malfunction within the phone system.

There was another occurrence of phone outages on Dec. 27, 2018 due to a national phone outage that was quickly fixed the next day, but left many people in the country vulnerable to dropped or incomplete 911 calls. According to an article from the Seattle Times, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is seeking stories from residents in the area who had trouble reaching 911 during the most recent outage.

The phone outages at Western have still not been resolved according to a follow-up email sent by University Communications on Jan. 7.


  1. Thanks for this article. It is important to note that most of these outages, especially the 911 outages, can be traced to CenturyLink. The anti-net neutral, anti-first amendment company your city council members (especially April Baker) go out of their way to push and defend even with their long track record of poor infrastructure, over-charging, and bad customer service. The answer lies in real infrastructure improvements involving publicly owned fiber-optic cabling. We also need to stop backing and electing candidates that refuse to learn about technology (like most of the current councils members and our current mayor) Who consistently hide behind the homeless when asked any hard question, even after taking years to do anything about homelessness and unnecessarily letting people literally freeze to death. They actually use the homeless to shield their big money donors. It’s 2019. Remember, most of them are in power because their funding mechanisms include the landlords and developers that make most of their money by overcharging students, works, the elderly, and more for rent. They really don’t know what it’s like to be an average citizen living on minimum wage, a fixed income, etc. Please keep this in mind at election time. There are better, tech savvy candidates, that also care about the other 90% of us.


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