The explosion in Nashville on Christmas Day hit a weak point in telecommunications infrastructure, disrupting telephone and internet services for days and highlighting a major risk to an increasingly digital economy.

An RV blew up in front of

AT&T Inc.

An exchange that eliminates a central clearing house that transports user and business data via telecommunication systems. This incident highlights, according to IT experts and industry leaders, how a terrorist attack, natural disaster or cyber incident can cause significant economic damage if it hits such a site.

The way networks evolve in the United States makes them vulnerable to these kinds of events, he said.

Nick Enger,

Technical Director of Advanced Technology Consulting Inc, specializing in IT consulting.

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The telecommunications networks of certain cities or regions converge in these so-called central offices. Although AT&T said Monday that most services in Nashville have been restored, the incident shows how a problem in one physical location can affect the entire digital infrastructure in the area. Law enforcement investigated whether the AT&T facility was the target of the attack.

This event is an opportunity for all of us to review our plans for backup and resilience, not only for our technology and external facilities, but also to identify and assess the physical and technological resilience of our critical partners.

Edward Wagoner,

Chief Information Officer, Digital, in a commercial real estate company.

Jones Lang LaSalle Inc..,

said the e-mail. The company has a presence in Nashville, but Mr. Wagoner said he couldn’t talk about specific customers.

AT&T customers in states other than Tennessee, including Kentucky and Alabama, have experienced service disruptions in recent days. The Kentucky Department of Education reported Internet problems on several of its websites as early as Monday morning, and Tennessee state officials said in a statement that the interruptions caused disruptions to services such as the state’s child abuse hotline and the Medicaid online portal.

These problems also forced some aircraft to divert their approach or departure from Nashville International Airport, resulting in delays.

All of us in the city are amazed at how this attack has had such an impact on the region,

Tom Yurkovich,

The Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority’s vice president of strategic communications and external affairs said in an interview.

Hundreds of AT&T employees and emergency teams worked to get a facility in downtown Nashville back online. They put out fires, started a generator and pumped a meter of water from the basement of the building, the company said.

The company added Monday morning that 11 mobile phone sites in the region remain operational and almost all internet and home video users have been restored.

This explosion highlights the need for companies to build redundancy into their networks so that one service can take over if another fails, IT experts say.

Companies can experience different degrees of disruption, as evidenced by the shift to teleworking due to the pandemic, disruption due to natural disasters or this recent event in Nashville, he said.

Blame Jane,

CEO of Mountain View, California-based Egnyte Inc., which offers, among other things, online file sharing and synchronization services. Egnite uses several internet service providers designed to take over from each other in case of failure, he said. Using multiple technology suppliers at different levels minimizes risk, he said.

Enger, whose company advises companies on IT resilience, said dozens of customers in Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Alabama lost basic connectivity after the Nashville attack.

Putting emergency plans in place requires an initial investment, Enger said: If you don’t have a plan [at the time of the incident], it’s already too late.

Over time, networks should become more secure as software replaces the physical infrastructure, he said.

Dan Beeler,

Senior Analyst for Innovation, the future of work and digital strategy in business

Forrester Research.

The transition to the so-called software networks has been going on for years, but only about a third of this transition has been completed. These systems can route data more efficiently over networks and are more secure.

According to Biehler, the timing of these innovations is difficult to predict and because the infrastructure is outdated, adoption varies from supplier to supplier.

Companies don’t want to get rid of the equipment they’ve invested in if they’re still doing their job, he said. It’s a gradual process.

-Angus Loten contributed to this article.

Email David Uberti on [email protected] and Stephen Rosenbusch on [email protected].

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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