North Routt County residents frustrated by decline of Verizon cell service
October 9, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — From the banks of the Elk River to the shores of Steamboat Lake, residents trying to make phone calls in North Routt County are noticing a disturbing trend.
Their Verizon Wireless cell phone service is reportedly fading away, and they're having trouble getting anyone to hear them now.
The service has become so unreliable in places, the local fire chief is reporting some callers can’t make 911 calls despite being close to a cell tower.
Kim Kline said she used to be able to sit in on conference calls and get a reliable signal all around her home east of Clark with her Verizon phone.
But sometime around April, the signal faded, and she now has to make a trek to her backyard to place a call. She sometimes drives more than 20 miles to Steamboat Springs if she has to be on a conference call.
Situated between mountains and hills far from the stoplights in Steamboat, North Routt is undeniably rural and remote, but its residents are saying their cell phone service hasn’t always been this spotty.
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"I just know it isn't what it used to be," Kline said Monday of her Verizon service. "It's frustrating."
Kline noted the previous reliability of her Verizon service prompted her to cancel her landline years ago.
Dozens of residents this year have filed complaints with Verizon, but they reported getting different answers about what was going on.
Some customers were simply told to seek other providers.
There are also some intriguing reports of what led to a loss of service.
Kline said she heard from someone at the Clark Store that a Verizon technician stopped by in April to repair a nearby cell tower that was damaged. But they were reportedly thwarted by the snow that covered the road up to the site.
To try and get to the bottom of the decline in service, Kline organized a petition that was signed by nearly 50 North Routt residents and Verizon customers who were also having service issues.
Several of the people who signed on also said they used to have reliable Verizon signals as recently as the spring, but their service was now at a point where even emergency calls are hard to place.
"Huge reduction in cell signal in the Steamboat Lake area over the past year," North Routt Fire Protection District chief Mike Swinsick wrote. "We have had numerous runs where people tried calling 911 and could not get a signal almost within sight of the one single tower we have up here."
The anecdotes from several residents about drops in service levels and the report of a damaged tower don't appear to jive with public statements from Verizon.
Asked last week about reports of service issues, Verizon spokeswoman Meagan Dorsch told Steamboat Today there were no known service issues, and there had been no changes in the service levels in North Routt.
She stood by that statement Monday after the newspaper forwarded her the petition signed by several North Routt residents.
Not satisfied with the initial responses she got from the company, Kline emailed her petition to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam in New York.
Days later, a Verizon system performance manager was calling Kline to look into the problem.
According to emails with the Verizon employee, the company has been performing tests and collecting data all around North Routt in response to the service complaints.
The company also has plans to modify an antenna to improve coverage, but the work might be delayed until the middle of next year due to "regulatory requirements."
In the meantime, Kline hopes North Routt residents can get a solution soon.
She's heard of other cell phone providers, such as Union Wireless, that offer coverage in the North Routt area.
But Kline said despite favorable reviews of that service from neighbors, she travels out of the county often and wants to stick with a carrier with a broader national network like Verizon.
"I think it's just going to take a consistent effort from our community to not drop off the radar," Kline said. "I just think Verizon is such a large corporation, our problem would be swept under the rug if we didn't keep on track and keep reaching out to these local contacts."