Domain names

Sorenson Communications, a Utah-based telecommunications provider, received a whopping $3 million fine from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Friday for failing to renew a crucial domain name used by a part of the local 911 emergency service.

The affected service was the Video Relay System (VRS), a video calling service that telecommunication firms must provide to deaf people and others people with vocal disabilities so they can make video calls to 911 services and use sign language to notify operators of an emergency or crime.

According to the FCC, on June 6, Sorenson failed to notice that the domain name on which the VRS 911 service ran had expired, leading to the entire system collapsing shortly after.

Utah residents with disabilities were unable to reach 911 operators for almost three days, the FCC discovered. Sorensen noticed its blunder and renewed the domain three days later, on June 8.

FCC found the outage was preventable

"The Commission’s investigation found the outage was preventable," the FCC wrote in a settlement it reached with Sorensen last week.

The settlement sum is massive, but of it, only $252,000 is an actual fine, going to the FCC. The rest of the fee — $2.7 million — is a restitution Sorensen must give back to the FCC's TRSF division.

The FCC uses the TRSF (Telecommunications Relay Services Fund) to subsidize VRS systems across the country. The $2.7 million Sorensen has to give back represents the money the telco received from the US government to run the 911 VRS system and to rent its dedicated bandwidth for the three days the system went down.

Not the first, not the last

Sorensen is by no stretch of the imagination the first company to forget to renew a domain name.

Samsung left millions of users exposed to hacking after it forgot to renew a domain name associated with its S Suggest app, built into all Samsung smartphones.

Online marketing giant Marketo also forgot to renew its main domain, causing huge and costly downtimes to many of its customers.

Other domain renewal blunders include the city of Oakland, Donald Trump, and Jeb Bush.