responder on a radio (possohh/Shutterstock.com)

FirstNet takes a hit from Nashville bombing

The Christmas morning bombing in Nashville outside an AT&T network hub disrupted internet, phone and wireless services of all major carriers -- both locally and across a wider region, including parts of Kentucky and Alabama. FirstNet, the nationwide, wireless public-safety broadband network operated by AT&T, was also affected. The explosion caused voice and data service outages for 911 call centers, businesses, hospitals, the Nashville airport, government offices and individual mobile users.

According to a statement by the First Responder Network Authority, which had been working closely with AT&T and local, state and federal officials following the attack, FirstNet’s infrastructure was not directly affected by the explosion. Backup power generators, though, were damaged by fire and water, leaving insufficient time to reroute all services before FirstNet’s backup batteries were depleted.

As the incident unfolded, FirstNet deployable assets – portable cell towers that link to FirstNet via satellite -- came online within hours and provided connectivity to responders and power restoration crews who worked to reestablish service in the middle of crime scene during a pandemic.   

“We mobilized resources, including portable cell sites, generators, our fleet of specialized equipment trailers and hundreds of personnel and partners from around the country,” an AT&T spokesperson told UrgentCommunications. “Because our dedicated FirstNet fleet is housed across more than 40 sites nationwide, we’re physically staged for fast response in any emergency.”

The FirstNet Authority said it remains in close contact with AT&T and has already begun reviewing how the network performed during this attack on the network hub.

“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,” FirstNet Authority Board Chair Tip Osterthaler said.

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