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AT&T recovers from multi-state outage after Nashville bombing

AT&T recovers from multi-state outage after Nashville bombing


The blast disabled backup generators at a network exchange point

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“Intentional” Explosion Rattles Nashville On Christmas Day
Photo by Thaddaeus McAdams/Getty Images

AT&T says its services have mostly recovered from a bombing that caused multi-state internet outages on Christmas. The explosion of an RV in Nashville injured three people and destroyed a section of the city’s downtown, including “significant damage” to a key AT&T transmission facility. This brought down wireless and wired networks across parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama — disrupting cell service, some 911 networks, and communications at the Nashville International Airport, which briefly grounded flights as a result.

The AT&T building, located blocks away from the company’s better-known office tower, provides a regional network connection point in addition to local service. The blast reportedly damaged the building’s structure and facade. Combined with water and fire damage, it disabled backup generators that were supposed to keep AT&T’s network functioning.

The result was days of partial service outages, mitigated partly by emergency cell sites. AT&T is also suspending data overage charges across parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, and Missouri over the final five days of December.

AT&T deployed portable cell sites around Nashville while rerouting regional network traffic and attempting to restore the building’s power. It reported on Sunday that it had restored 96 percent of its wireless network, 60 percent of business services, and 86 percent of consumer broadband and entertainment. As of today, “nearly all” consumer service had been restored. However, AT&T is maintaining 11 portable cell sites, and according to the company, it is still limiting power consumption in the building to avoid overloading its generators.

“We have begun to turn down portable sites that are no longer needed given the recovery of service,” said CEO Jeff McElfresh in a statement on Monday, “but we will have resources standing by in the region as needed.”

Federal law enforcement named 63-year-old Anthony Quinn Warner as the bomber, and they’ve reported that Warner died in the explosion. Although Warner parked his RV close to the AT&T transmission building, investigators haven’t concluded whether he intentionally targeted it, nor have they declared a motive for the attack.

Local news outlet WSMV reported that law enforcement agents had asked an FBI tipster whether Warner might be motivated by 5G network paranoia — an unfounded conspiracy theory that has led people to harass network engineers working on the tech. But the tipster, a real estate agent who had worked with a “Tony Warner,” said the man had not discussed 5G with him.

The FBI said on Sunday that it was “still early in the investigation.” Whatever the motive, the bombing shook a significant section of American internet infrastructure for days — even if it’s now largely recovered.