It took four days for the restoration of cell service, internet and law enforcement communications, including FirstNet, across a multistate region after the Nashville bombing across from the AT&T central office facility.
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), which has been working closely with AT&T and local, state, and federal officials, said that the FirstNet network infrastructure was not initially impacted by the explosion. However, after temporary battery power was exhausted, two local water mains that were destroyed in the blast flooded backup power generators with three feet of water.
“AT&T recovery resources and the dedicated fleet of FirstNet deployable network assets came online to ensure connectivity for FirstNet users,” a FirstNet press release reads. “FirstNet deployable assets arrived on the scene less than five hours after the blast. Local FirstNet services were restored within four hours after batteries were exhausted, supporting multiple agencies that were responding to the events on the ground.”
However, police, 911 call centers, retail outlets and AT&T residential user communications were affected in large portions of Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama for several days.
FirstNet Authority Board Chair Tip Osterthaler said the objective to provide connectivity to first responders regardless of circumstances places a heavy burden on the authority and AT&T. FirstNet has initiated an in-depth review of how the network performed during the attack.
“As we absorb the lessons learned from this attack, we will adjust our risk management and investment strategies as appropriate to deal with the changing threat environment,” Osterthaler said. “We are thankful that the only fatality from the bomb was apparently the bomber, and we are also thankful for the first responders, utility crews, and AT&T personnel who rushed to the scene on Christmas morning in order to protect lives and property and restore services.”
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), who represents Nashville, called for congressional hearings on reducing telecom vulnerabilities, according to the Associated Press.
“We are all too dependent on phone, cellphone, TV and internet to have outages for any reason,” he said in an emailed statement. The U.S. “needs to harden our telecom facilities so we have greater redundancy and reliability,” he added.