From ACT For America <[email protected]>
Subject Nashville Bombing Exposes Communications Infrastructure
Date January 6, 2021 6:41 PM
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By Christopher Holton

For more than 24 hours, the Christmas morning bomb blast in downtown
Nashville, Tennessee knocked out emergency communications, as well as
internet and cellular service for AT&T customers in a shockingly large

The fact that a relatively small vehicle-borne improvised explosive device
(VBIED) outside an AT&T transmission building was able to inflict so much
damage to critical communications infrastructure should be of concern to
all Americans, but especially to state and local officials.

The cellular and internet outages ranged from inconvenient to catastrophic.

Cellular data service was reportedly knocked out to parts of Tennessee,
Kentucky, Indiana, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois and Missouri. The Nashville
Airport had to shut down for a brief period.

Of greater security concern was the fact that the Nashville Police
Department uses a proprietary AT&T network for public safety agencies and
first responders and that included the phones of all the Department’s
officers and administrators. They were all without service for as long as a
day. The Davidson County Sheriff’s Office in Nashville also reported that
all of its communications were down in the wake of the bomb detonation.
Even more worrisome was the fact that the 911 emergency system for multiple
cities in Tennessee, in addition to Nashville, were knocked out by the

In the event of an emergency—especially had this been a coordinated
terrorist attack with follow-on assaults—these disruptions could have
crippled command and control.

It might seem cavalier to refer to the VBIED that devastated a block in
Nashville as relatively small, but when compared to the damage done by
previous vehicle bombs, the blast was no where near as destructive.
Previous attacks such as the US embassy in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983, the
U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut also in 1983, the Oklahoma City bombing in
1995 and the Khobar Towers attack in 1996 in Saudi Arabia all involved much
bigger bombs and far greater destruction (as well as death tolls in the

The relatively small VBIED in Nashville would have crippled response
efforts had there been a coordinated terrorist attack against multiple
targets, such as occurred in Mumbai, India in 2008. Another overlooked
aspect is the fact that the AT&T outage reportedly shut down hospital
communications for an undisclosed number of hospital campuses in the area.
Had there been a mass casualty event, how might this have affected the
management of the response?

All of this calls into question the physical security and resilience of our
communications infrastructure. Structures that house critical
infrastructure need to be hardened against attack and designed to put
particularly vulnerable systems as far from a potential blast site as

There needs to be greater redundancy in critical communications
infrastructure. The AT&T equipment continued to operate after the blast due
to the use of stand-by generators. But those generators ran out of fuel and
everything shut down when that happened. The same happened to
communications in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but in the
rebuilding effort there, the cellular equipment was hooked up to natural
gas-powered generators that do not run out of fuel.

There is one small step that every state should take in the upcoming
legislative sessions. The location of critical communications
infrastructure should be treated as secret. One state in particular
actually took steps toward that end in 2020: Florida. The Sunshine State
passed a law exempting from public records requirements of details about
911 systems, including the location of switches that make such systems
work. There is no reason to make it easy for nefarious elements to know
where they need to strike to knock out our command, control and

Emergency management officials everywhere need to regard the Nashville
bombing as a dry run and learn the lessons from what happened to prevent a
worse catastrophe in the future. We can be sure our enemies are
watching—enemies with far greater resources and destructive expertise
than the person or people who set off the RV bomb in Nashville.


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domestic and mobilizing Americans to stand up and defend freedom. We would
be so grateful for your support. [6]_
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