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French government blames Orange's slow crisis management of its network outage

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: The logo of French telecoms operator Orange is seen a store in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) - Orange, France's biggest telecoms firm, failed to swiftly alert the country's authorities about the extent of the network outage that affected calls to emergency services for several hours last month, according to a government report released on Thursday.

The network outage put the state-controlled company and its boss Stephane Richard under the spotlight, as thousands of calls nationwide could not go through to emergency services on June 2, putting the lives of some people at risk.

"It's clear from the report that there were shortcomings on the part of the company," France's minister for digital affairs Cedric O told reporters in a call, stressing that Orange's handling of the crisis could have been more efficient.

In the report, led by France's cybersecurity agency ANSSI, investigators highlighted the lack of a specific national oversight by Orange of emergency calls, which it is compelled by law to centralise and route to emergency services in the country.

They also pointed to the company's slowness in communicating information at an early stage of the crisis, as well as a lack of technical support to authorities during the crisis.

As for the origin of the outage, the government report confirmed earlier findings by Orange's own internal audit: it was caused by a bug in the call server software.

The emergency calls, which rely on a platform of servers responsible for dispatching calls, were severely disturbed because of the bug, which was present in equipment supplied by Italtel ahead of the crisis.

The government will call on telecoms regulator Arcep to look into Orange's shortcomings over the next few days, O said. The regulatory framework for emergency calls will be strengthened, the minister said, adding that regular crisis exercises would be put in place.

"Orange is committed to reviewing its processes and organization, in collaboration with state services, over the management of emergency phone numbers," the company said.

(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Kim Coghill)