AT&T Is Offering Customers $5 After the Major Cell Phone Network Outage

By: Alyssa Miller | Published: Feb 26, 2024

A widespread outage affected AT&T customers last week. The cause behind the outage was a technical issue that the company encountered while trying to expand its network. Now, the network company is apologizing through compensation.

AT&T customers affected by the outage will receive $5 as compensation for the network outage that left many without service for hours. How can you get this compensation? Let’s get into it.

Affected AT&T Customers Are Getting Compensation

According to the company’s website, AT&T announced it will be giving customers a $5 credit on their account within two billing cycles. The credit, however, does not apply to AT&T Business, prepared service, or Cricket, the low-cost wireless service.

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Prepaid customers will have options available if the outage impacts them. However, AT&T has not elaborated on those options.

Did Any Other Carriers Experience Outages? 

At one point, AT&T-owned Cricket Wireless experienced more than 9,000 outages. However, the reports of outages dwindles by later afternoon. Users of other carriers, including Sprint and T-Mobile, reported issues as well.

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However, those companies stated that their networks were operating normally, and the problems were likely coming from customers trying to connect to AT&T users.

AT&T iPhone Users Could Only Make Emergency Calls 

During the nationwide outage, some iPhone users saw SOS messages displayed in the status bar on their phones. This indicates that the device is having trouble connecting to its cellular provider’s network.

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When a smartphone is in SOS mode, users can make emergency calls through other carrier networks, according to Apple Support.

About 70,000 People Reported Service Disruption 

The outage happened around 3:30 a.m. Easter time in the United States, temporarily cutting off connections for thousands of users nationwide. Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York were some of the affected cities, according to Downdetector.com.

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The website tracker reports telecommunication and internet disruptions. The tracker received about 70,000 reports of service disruption for AT&T.

Capitol Hill Experience Outages

The outages also affected many AT&T users in Washington, D.C. “We are working to assess today’s disruption in order to gain a complete understanding of what went wrong and what can be done to prevent future incidents like this from occurring,” said Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Bob Latta in a statement.

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Rodgers is a Washington Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Ohio Republican Bob Latta is chair of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee.

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The FBI Looks Into the Disruption

The Federal Communications Commission contacted AT&T about the outage. The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI were also looking into the cause of the outage, according to John Kirby, the spokesman for the National Security Council (via AP).

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“Should we learn of any malicious activity, we will respond accordingly,” the FBI said, acknowledging it had been in contact with the Dallas-based company.

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12-Hour Service Disruptions Are Rare

The outage knocked out cell phone service for thousands of AT&T users across the U.S. in the early morning hours of Thursday, Feb. 22. Service was down for several hours, and restored in the afternoon.

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While regional disruptions to wireless service can happen, prolonged nationwide outages–like the 12-hour outage experienced in this situation, are rare.

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Was the AT&T Outage a Cyberattack?

AT&T stated that a coding error caused the incident, rather than the speculated cyberattacks that were tracking online.

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“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,” the Dallas-based company said, according to the Associated Press (AP).

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AT&T Apologizes to Customers

On Friday, many AT&T users received a text message from the company, reading: “We apologize for Thursday’s outage, which may have impacted you. As a valued customer, your connection matters and we are committed to doing better.”

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John T. Stankey, the chief executive of AT&T, wrote in a letter, “No matter the timing, one thing is clear—we let down many of our customers, including many of you and your families. For that, we apologize.”

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AT&T Is Paying for a Day of Service

To correct a mistake, AT&T is giving affected customers a $5 credit on their AT&T Wireless account. “For the portion of consumer and small business customers most impacted by the outage, we are automatically applying an account credit to compensate them for the inconvenience they experienced,” the company said.

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While you might not see the credit available right now, the credit will appear in one to two billing cycles, depending on when a customer’s bill closes, the company said.

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Can You Forgive AT&T? 

You might think, “Well, $5 is nothing,” but that credit is meant to refund customers the amount for the day of service. “I believe that crediting those customers for essentially a full day of service is the right thing to do,” Mr. Stankey wrote.

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While $5 might not make a difference in the long run, it is nice to see a company taking responsibility for an error that affected tens of thousands of customers, and will take steps “to prevent this from happening again in the future.”

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