Mobile Network 'Kill Switch' Never Used in Boston Bombing Aftermath

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2013-04-17 Print this article Print

"Minus some mild call blocking on our Boston network due to above-normal call volume and traffic, our service operated normally," Davis said in her email. "When call blocking occurs, customers can still make and receive calls, but it might take a second or third attempt for the call to go through. In cases like this, we recommend that customers text rather than call. Text messages are more than likely to transmit with very minimal to no delay, and network capacity will be free for law enforcement, first responders and emergency medical personnel to utilize."

Davis also explained why phone service was out for a shorter duration than has been the case in previous emergencies. "Sprint did augment capacity on its cell sites along the marathon route in preparation for the race, and voice levels did return to normal within a few hours—and as law enforcement and first responders cleared out the area as part of their emergency response."

Verizon Wireless had done much the same thing, according to a statement on the company blog. "Verizon Wireless has been enhancing network voice capacity to enable additional calling in the Copley Square area of Boston," Verizon spokesperson Tom Pica said in a prepared statement on the company Website. "Customers are advised to use text or email to free up voice capacity for public safety officials at the scene. There was no damage to the Verizon Wireless network, which is seeing elevated calling and data usage throughout the region since the explosions occurred."

AT&T and T-Mobile could not be reached for comment regarding wireless service during the emergency.

Of course, plenty of rumors are still circulating despite exposure to the facts. There are conspiracy theorists who think that the U.S. government is trying to pull some kind of cell phone shutdown similar to what happened during the Arab Spring and the resulting unrest.

But the fact is there is no wireless network kill switch. While law enforcement authorities at all levels can certainly request that wireless carriers shutdown their networks, there is no centralized means of doing so. This means that any actual shutdown could take hours, and it would also mean that law enforcement officials would effectively cut off their own communications. Admittedly, government officials have done some dumb things in the past, and probably will in the future, but they certainly did not do so in Boston.


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