River Communities Frustrated with Verizon Cell Phone Service

 

Shaonna Sergeys-Chase shared her last eight speed tests with the Two Rivers Tribune. Her best connection recorded in eight tests over the course of the three months was 1.26 Mbps, but averaged .40 Mbps.

Shaonna Sergeys-Chase shared her last eight speed tests with the Two Rivers Tribune. Her best connection recorded in eight tests over the course of the three months was 1.26 Mbps, but averaged .40 Mbps.

By Allie Hostler, Two Rivers Tribune

Hundreds of cell phone customers in the Hoopa and Willow Creek area have reached their breaking point with service from the global communications leader Verizon Wireless, the company that owns the nation’s first and largest 4G network.

“More than 98 percent of the U.S. population has access to 4G LTE,” the company states on their website.

The other two percent likely live in areas like the Klamath-Trinity region where customers are logging record low internet connection speeds and complaining about poor cell phone signals in locations where service used to be satisfactory.

Rebecca Robertson runs a childcare business and takes online college classes at night using Verizon to access the internet.

“My signal is so bad that it takes about 15 minutes to load a single page,” Robertson said. “It seriously reminds me of dial up!”

In March Alanna Nulph conducted a speed test using her Verizon Wireless hotspot and logged 26.7 kilobits per second (kbps)—about half as slow as one could expect with a dial-up internet connection. For reference, a typical dial-up connection downloads at a rate of 56 kbps. A 4G wireless connection—what Verizon Wireless customers pay for—should deliver speeds around 10 Megabits per second (Mbps). It takes 1,000 kbps to equal 1 Mbps.

Shaonna Sergeys-Chase shared her last eight speed tests with the Two Rivers Tribune. Her best connection recorded in eight tests over the course of the three months was 1.26 Mbps, but averaged .40 Mbps.

“The service is terrible and unusable,” Sergeys-Chase said. “I have to be on WiFi at home to be online…might as well pay less for crappy service than what Verizon charges.”

Heather Campbell is in the same boat.

“For the last few months all videos and pictures, songs and apps take forever to load, if they load at all—super frustrating,” Campbell said. “YouTube tries and tries then just gives up and says to try again later.”

Similar complaints are echoed more than 90 times on a single Facebook thread and more than 50 times on a similar Facebook thread directed at Klamath-Trinity residents. Many Verizon customers have switched to other cellular providers, even despite their contract obligations with Verizon.

“I switched back to AT&T in April and couldn’t be happier with their service,” Naomi VanPelt said. “I have truly unlimited data and I’ve had more than one Verizon customer use my hotspot to use their phones.”

Alexandra Shull lives in Willow Creek near the golf course and has experienced declining quality of service over the past several months.

“Videos won’t load and neither will pictures,” Shull said. “It’s very frustrating since I am paying for high speed internet.”

JW Mooney helps manage the Hoopa Valley Tribe’s property, which includes the cell tower on Bald Hill. He’s spoken with the broker who manages cell tower customers such as Verizon, AT&T, KEET TV and other telecommunications companies on behalf of the tribe.

“Either I’m getting blown off, or they’re getting blown off,” Mooney said about complaints made about the declining quality of service.

Heidi Flato, a spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless, said in an email to the Two Rivers Tribune that, “as Verizon customers add more devices and find more ways to use them, they are constantly working to increase the density of the network to meet—and stay ahead of—growing demand.”

“We have been working with local planning officials to identify the best solution for improving network performance in your area,” Flato said.

Mooney said Verizon representatives have not been in contact with any planners from the Hoopa Valley Tribe, which was also confirmed by several additional tribal employees.

Verizon Wireless has been the main cell phone carrier in the area with more than 1,000 customers in the 95546 area code alone. The Hoopa Valley Tribe is one of the area’s largest customers with a conservative estimate of $7,500 of cell service charges per month.

The problem with the network isn’t entirely clear. Several specific questions about the cause of the problem and potential remedies directed to Flato were ignored.

Mooney suggests that unsatisfied Verizon customers call 611 to report their complaints. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

 

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