Nearly all AT&T services restored following Christmas morning blast

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A portable cell site is seen in downtown Nashville Saturday morning, Dec. 26, 2020. (AT&T)

CULLMAN, Ala. – After an explosion rocked Nashville on Christmas morning, many AT&T users around the Tennessee Valley area found that they had unreliable connectivity, if any at all, due to damage at one of the company’s facilities. In addition to residential phone and internet, this “blackout” also affected many businesses and government facilities.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, AT&T reported, “Nearly all services have been restored following Friday’s explosion in Nashville. Engineers have completed multi-discipline inspections of the building. Despite the tremendous impact of the blast, they have confirmed that the damage, including structural, is repairable. Additionally, we will be able to safely continue operating our equipment to serve our customers. Our engineers are currently designing permanent repairs that will be completed without significant service interruptions.

“We continue to operate the facility on generator power and are working on bringing commercial power from street level into the building. Restoration and recovery work will continue until the remaining wireline services that have been affected by this event are operating normally. Our technical teams have a priority list for any services that may need to be restored via our onsite fleet of disaster recovery equipment.

“We are extending relief to our wireline voice customers who may be affected by the explosion. We will be waiving domestic, long-distance voice overage charges through the holiday season for affected customers from December 25 to January 1. This is in addition to our previously announced relief for wireless customers.

“We’ll continue to provide additional updates here as our recovery progresses.” (Get updates at https://about.att.com/pages/disaster_relief/nashville.html).

Cullman County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Phyllis Little offered an explanation of the service issues local individuals and businesses faced and the amount of time required to solve them.

“The infrastructure was damaged and required physically reconnecting power and/or repairing connections,” she explained. “This was not an incident where you could flip a few switches to reroute service.  Unless you had access to devices on another system such as Verizon, there was nothing to purchase that could provide connectivity.” 

Little said the investigation of the scene prevented workers from starting repairs immediately.

“Technicians required access to the Nashville facility that couldn’t be granted until the initial emergency response was complete and an inspection done to determine the safety of the structure. Under a situation that included an intentional bombing, that also required waiting until the initial investigation could determine that there weren’t any secondary devices, and that the crime scene was preserved to provide law enforcement time to collect any available evidence,” she said.

Little reported that as of Sunday evening, “Locally, we are still having technology issues.” She described how the Cullman EMA office, like many local businesses and municipal facilities, uses AT&T for its phone system and internet, and did not have any connectivity other than cell phone and Wi-Fi Internet cards as of Sunday, Dec. 27. This has caused issues with accessing the system’s information, as most of the office’s records are held on a primary system that cannot be accessed until the facility’s internet service is restored.” Little provided another example of the complications, saying, “If you’ve been shopping in our area over the last two days, you’ve probably been notified that you need cash or a check to make a purchase. No credit, debit or gift cards can be used. This is much like the situations faced after the 2011 tornadoes that took out power across north Alabama.”

Monday evening, Little reported, “Everything’s back online.”

Cullman area AT&T cellular customers reported service late Saturday night. Dec. 26.

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Heather Mann

heather@cullmantribune.com