The explosion near the AT&T building on Second Avenue in downtown Nashville on Christmas Day caused “significant damage” to the facility that led to service disruptions across parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama, the telco said.
More than 48 hours later, some customers were still without service. By Dec. 28, AT&T said, its wireless network in the area was operating normally, business customers were back online, and service was restored to nearly all home internet and video customers.
The FBI is investigating whether the suspect identified in the attack targeted AT&T, the parent company of WarnerMedia, because he was paranoid that the government was using 5G wireless technology to spy on citizens, NBC Nashville affiliate WSMV reported. The next-gen 5G has been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories across the globe, including that there is some connection between 5G and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in some acts of vandalism to telecommunications facilities.
Asked about speculation that the bomber had targeted the telco, AT&T spokesman Jim Greer referred questions on the investigation to the FBI and other law enforcement.
An FBI representative said in an emailed statement, “The investigation into this incident, including the motive, is continuing,” adding that the agency is still requesting assistance from the public to share images, video or info of the explosion at fbi.gov/Nashville or submit information via tips.fbi.gov or 800-CALL-FBI.
On CBS News’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, Nashville Mayor John Cooper suggested that the bomber had targeted AT&T.
“The truck was parked adjacent to this large, historic AT&T facility,” Cooper said on “Face the Nation.” “And to all of us locally, it feels like there has to be some connection with the AT&T facility and the site of the bombing… It’s got to have something to do with the infrastructure.”
The FBI identified the bomber as Anthony Quinn Warner, 63, of Antioch, Tenn. Federal authorities said Warner died in the explosion of an RV parked in downtown Nashville.
In the wake of the blast and the resulting outages, AT&T said, it will waive data-overage charges for customers in 1,166 ZIP codes across states including Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois and Missouri from Dec. 27-31. The company set up more than 25 temporary portable cell sites in the region to support customers and first responders.
What made network restoration so difficult was “doing it while maintaining the integrity of an active crime scene in cooperation with federal and local law enforcement,” Jeff McElfresh, CEO of AT&T Communications, said in a statement Sunday.
(Pictured: A police officer blocks a street in downtown Nashville on Dec. 26, 2020.)