As more wireless improvements come to Steamboat, rural Routt County residents ask ‘what about us?’
October 4, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When news spread that Verizon Wireless was getting ready to build a new cell tower to boost its 4G LTE signals in west Steamboat Springs, some residents who live up the road in North Routt County felt left out in the buffering zone.
People in towns such as Clark and Hahn's Peak have said they have had to endure spotty coverage and expensive, but slow, internet connections for years.
And at a time when high speed connections are becoming more of a necessity in the digital world than a luxury, some residents are banding together to lobby for improvements.
Without any changes, many will have to continue driving to the Clark store or even further to Steamboat to get work done and allow their children to complete online homework assignments.
Some claim their Verizon cellular and internet coverage has actually grown worse than it was in the past.
And they feel their pleas for help have so far gone unanswered.
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"We keep calling and filling out reports," North Routt resident Don Matthis said Wednesday. "But we have hit nothing but dead ends reaching Verizon to try and get ahold of folks."
Mathis, who lives between Clark and Hahn's Peak, said when he and his neighbors submit trouble tickets for service failures, they are told to reboot their phones and seek other service if all of the other options fail.
Trouble is, Mathis said, Verizon is the only company using towers that reach the area.
Mathis uses a 4GLTE data box with an eight- to 10-inch antenna on top of it for his connection. He said the package costs upwards of $500.
He added that a recent test of his phone service showed a dropped call rate of 31 percent.
"We had great service (when we moved here in 2015), but we noticed about a year ago the service went to crap," he said.
A Verizon spokeswoman said Wednesday there were no issues on their network in recent years that would have affected the Clark area, nor has its coverage in the area changed recently.
"Every day we continue to work on ways to improve our network coverage," spokeswoman Meaghan Dorsch said. "We have some projects under discussion, but I do not have specifics that I can provide at this time."
She said the only recent work in the area was to fix a piece of equipment on the company's 3G network.
Meanwhile, North Routt residents are trying to find other ways to improve their cell phone and high-speed internet coverage.
Alan Lay lives in the Willow Creek Pass neighborhood, where 100 households in the 130-home neighborhood have access to a 1.2 megabit-per-second connection from Centurylink.
Lay says he's not even able to get the full 1.2 megabits in the neighborhood just north of Clark, so Centurylink gives him a monthly discount on his bill.
"The residents here are fed up" about the lack of high speed internet, Lay said Wednesday.
He said Centurylink representatives have been courteous and accommodating. But so far they haven't been willing to expand the service or make investments to increase the speed.
Lay said the homeowners association there last month formed a High Speed Internet Task Force to explore the options for better internet and wireless service.
The homeowners had even floated the idea of paying for a tower that Zirkel Wireless could use to provide service in the area.
"There's got to be a better option than us paying for a tower," Lay said.
Lay has himself worked for 17 years in the telecom industry, so he's using his industry knowledge to try and "cut to the chase."
That entails talking directly to service planners about the neighborhood's desire to get a better option.
"I feel like I'm talking to the right people now," he said. "My next step is to reach out to the legislators."
Like Mathis, Lay said he felt slighted when he heard the news of Verizon's new 4GLTE tower in Steamboat.
He said he understood why the new services are going into a bigger community with more customers.
"But it does leave you with a bad taste in your mouth," he said. "What about us? We pay our bills just like everybody else. Why can't I get the 4G speeds that I'm paying for. Why do I have to wait until (everyone else is asleep at) 2 a.m. to get on a signal?"