AT&T to replace fire-ravaged copper in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, with fiber-based last-mile facilities

AT&T has sought FCC approval to replace copper in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, that was damaged by the Chimney Tops fire in November 2016 with a GPON-based fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) architecture.

During this process, the carrier will retire nonworking copper service wires (drops) and copper network terminating wires (NTW), which are sub loops. AT&T Tennessee said in an FCC filing (PDF) that it “intends to re-establish service to those buildings rendered uninhabitable or destroyed utilizing the GPON/FTTP platform when the buildings are re-built.”

The telco, according to an FCC filing, had a total of 11 distribution areas that were impacted by the Chimney Tops No. 2 fire. In Gatlinburg, AT&T Tennessee said it “suffered irreparable damage to its copper facilities” within the wire center.

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The legacy copper facilities that were destroyed in the fire will not be replaced, nor will AT&T expand the surviving copper network to serve new wholesale or retail customers or provide additional services to existing customers.

Services that are currently working over copper will remain in place and those customers will have the option to migrate to the new GPON/FTTP facilities once they are operational.

In December, AT&T Tennessee declared a “force majeure” event as a result of the fires. This declaration removes liability for natural and unavoidable catastrophes that interrupt the expected course of events and restrict participants from fulfilling obligations.

On Dec. 15, former President Barack Obama declared Sevier County, Tennessee, a federal disaster area.

Following the fire, AT&T Tennessee began immediate restoration of its facilities. AT&T Tennessee said it “replaced and repaired the damaged copper that was serving buildings which were habitable with a like-for-like copper solution.”

The service provider added that “the copper and related equipment that had served the buildings that were destroyed also were destroyed and rendered unusable by the fire.”

AT&T is not the only telco in recent years that has been forced to replace copper facilities with fiber following a natural disaster. Fellow telco Verizon had to replace the wireline network infrastructure destroyed by Hurricane Sandy on New York's Fire Island with its FTTH-based FiOS service in 2013.