Boston Marathon Bombing

Cellular Networks Were Flooded, Not Shut Down, After Boston Marathon Attack


Credit: JonJon2k8/flickr

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that an unnamed "law enforcement official," citing an intelligence briefing, said that cell phone service had been deliberately switched off in Boston to prevent another bomb being detonated by a cell phone. However, providers have denied that cellular networks were deliberately shut down. From ArsTechnica

There was confusion this afternoon when the Associated Press reported that cell service in the city would be intentionally shut off as police looked to prevent any possible cellular activation of another explosive. However, the news organization basically retracted its original story and found no such shutdown was ordered. The carriers said heavy usage caused connection delays—but service remained available in the city throughout the day.

"Verizon Wireless has not been asked by any government agency to turn down its wireless service. Any reports to that effect are inaccurate," Verizon spokesman Tom Pica told the IDG News Service in an e-mail.

The AP's initial report came from an anonymous law enforcement official, citing an intelligence briefing that supposedly outlined the service shutdown. The FCC later told ABC News it was not aware of any cellular shutdowns, and the news outlet confirmed the same with Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon. (T-Mobile had a similar message for VentureBeat.)

No one has claimed responsibility for yesterday's attack, however the Pakistani Taliban has denied that they were involved.

Read more from on the attack at yesterday's Boston marathon here

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  1. BFD. The Emergency responders all have special cards that given them priority on the network so they can call even when the network is overloaded. As for everyone else, you can call mom and Peoria and let her know you are okay after things calm down.

    1. I think it would be a pretty big deal if the government had the ability to shut down the cell network. Especially considering that they want you entirely dependent on the police for your safety.

      1. I agree with you. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. What happens is everyone tries to call mom and overloads the network.

      2. That’s a tough call. When a series of cell-triggered bombs is discovered, shutting down the area would be real handy.

        1. Well, I know that the military has area jammers. I think that’s acceptable.

          1. So you want Military cell phone jammining stationed everywhere just in case?

            1. No, that’s not what I said.

    2. Actually, an SMS is better. Quicker to generate, lower load on the system, and quicker to consume.

  2. The AP’s initial report came from an anonymous law enforcement official

    who should be rounded up as a “person of interest”.

  3. It would be my guess that DHS probably used a local cell jammer like the kind that has been used in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would not surprise me at all if these sorts of devices are regularly deployed to high-visibility events (Super Bowl, etc.) for use in an emergency.

  4. I’m increasingly ready to believe the “FBI patsy” theory that someone else commented on these boards… But maybe a modified version. FBI tried to set up a homegrown jihadist, supplied dud weapons, patsy decides to ‘add a few of his own’. The duds were the ones that the FBI ‘found’ later, elsewhere… It is pretty much par for the course that terrorist groups claim responsibility for an incident within 24 hours, that is the whole point of a terror campaign.

    1. Wonderful reasoning!

      Except, no duds were found.

      Except, you have NO extrinsic or tanglible “evidence” whatsoever for an FBI sting operation.

      Except the “no terrorist group has claimed “responsibility, so the FBI musta done it”, is fallacious: silence is at the very least, ambiguous, not conclusive.

      But if you are increasingly ready to believe your theory, I am increasingly ready to sell you the Zakim Bridge in Boston, which I own, free and clear.

      Lets talk; I’m flexible.

  5. Dang! Here I’m thinking the government finally did some thing right for a change… never mind.

  6. I doubt the problem was load, for two reasons. First, had that been the case, Verizon would not have been the only carrier affected. Second, my co-worker’s phones IN MAINE were disabled. We’re barely in the Boston media market, let alone cell-server area.

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