Verizon customers frustrated with service

Finger pointing but no solutions prevails in cell phone disruptions

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— The recent disruption and continued unreliability in cellular phone service that has plagued the area can be blamed on a number of reasons, depending on who one talks to.

But no matter what the reason, some customers say they believe that there doesn't seem to be any real solution in the foreseeable future.

Even the general manager of Cameron Communications in Steamboat Springs is limiting his cell phone use these days.

Local Verizon customers say the service has been plagued with interruptions recently.

"About the only time I personally use my cell phone is if I'm in my car, or at home in the evenings," Ron O'Herron said.

O'Herron just recently came to Steamboat as a result of the sale of Cameron Communications by founder Andy Brown, to Golden Wheat, Inc., of Wichita, Kan.

In his short time here, O'Herron said he has become well aware that his company's customers, who are dependent on Verizon Wireless, for their cell phone service, are growing increasingly frustrated with the interruption in service they are experiencing. Cameron is an authorized agent for Verizon.

"We faxed some angry e-mails down to Verizon," O'Herron said.

Many Cameron/Verizon customers here were unable to make or receive calls Sunday night and again Monday morning.

O'Herron said the number of cell phone calls here has exceeded the capacity of Verizon's cell phone tower on Storm Peak and a solution may not be in sight until the company is able to build a new tower.

"Right now, the only answer I can give you, is the tower's overloaded," O'Herron said. "This has been a good market for us and we feel bad about it. We're asking our customers to be patient."

O'Herron said Verizon has plans to install a new, unobtrusive antenna on the Colorado Mountain College Alpine Campus here.

A spokesperson for Union Cellular said they have adequate cell towers in the area. Another wireless phone provider, Sprint, is also working toward establishing digital phone towers here.

Patience is not the first word on the tip of the tongue of some cell phone customers who depend heavily on mobile phones in their businesses.

Cell phones have become an indispensable tool for people in the local construction industry at least when those phones are working properly.

Cedar Run Enterprises owner Jack Sheratz, said he spends many hours on the cell phone every month, but lately he's spending as much time trying to retrieve messages as he is actually talking to business associates.

"I use the cell phone 3,000 minutes (50 hours) a month and it's killing me," Sheratz said. "I spend half my time trying to get my messages. It's a pain when they (cell phones) don't work."

Lately, Sheratz estimates, he's been able to place and receive calls 60 to 70 percent of the time.

On the other hand, when his cell phone does work, Sheratz said, it's effective. When important items on his to-do list come to mind, he doesn't have to write them down, he said. He just places the call and moves on. However, when he needs to reach a construction superintendent and can not, it's frustrating.

The problems with cell phone service in Steamboat Springs appear to be attributable primarily to Verizon; at least two couples who use the two different providers locally, say the one who depends upon Union Cellular isn't having problems, while the Verizon customer is often impossible to reach.

Lisa Mick said her boyfriend is on Union and she is on Verizon (Cameron). Frequently, he catches up with her during the day and says he's been trying to call for hours and has been unable to get her.

"He can stand right here in front of me and dial me, and my phone won't ring," Mick said.

Jody Wojtowicz said she has had similar experiences with her cell phone.

"I'm about to throw mine in the trash," she said. "I got mine basically for long distance. Every time I try to make a call, I can't."

She said she also has trouble trying to reach her husband, Guy, a stucco contractor, on the job site. Guy Wojtowicz, who has cell phone service with Union, said he doesn't think he has unusual difficulty reaching Jody.

He said his cell phone is reliable with the exception of some "dead zones" where he doesn't have coverage.

Steamboat cabinet maker Rick Bear says he has been calling Verizon's customer service representative monthly and been assured he won't be charged for his service because it has been unreliable.

Bear said his cell phone problems include calls going directly to voice mail without first ringing through to his mobile phone, an inability to use his phone during peak business hours, being told by a recorded voice that his long distance service has been temporarily discontinued, and being assessed roaming charges for calls made from within the local cell.

In trying to find out what the root of the problem is, Bear said he's received varying answers depending upon whom he is talking to Verizon, Cameron Communications, the city of Steamboat Springs and Qwest.

"I am told many things, none of which makes me feel like the solution is to be forthcoming," Bear said.

The blame has been placed on the city for not approving new transmission towers, the number of visitors in Steamboat clogging up the system, Qwest's need to repair their lines and frequent snow storms had caused local calls to be rerouted through other cell towers, Bear said.

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