Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Using Your Cell Phone Along the Chumash Highway

It seems another controversial decision from cell phone service provider AT&T may be affecting our friends in the valley and even here on the coast. Got this from a reader -- anybody experience these issues with their service?

Here's the short story as I understand it from AT&T Mobility (formerly Cingular) tech support last night (10/2).  Until yesterday AT&T phones worked on a combination of AT&T and other provider cell towers.  Without any notice to the customer, AT&T switched to their own cell towers only yesterday (10/2).  Their "network engineers" have studied the area and believe this is acceptable.  The switch means decreased coverage.  For me, living in Santa Ynez, this means the closest tower is 8 miles away and everyone in the Valley is sharing it.  Data messages (text, Blackberry, voice-mail notifications, etc.) seem to work fine.  However outgoing voice calls fail about 90% of the time with a "Network Busy" error message, and most incoming calls go to voice-mail.

AT&T said if enough people complain they'll consider reconnecting with those outside provider towers, but it may take up to two weeks.  Two weeks!!!  My wife and I only have cell phones, my wife works from home 75% of the time and uses her cell phone regularly, and she is 5 months pregnant.  We can't wait two weeks for service.  If it is not back by tomorrow morning (10/4) we'll have to switch to another provider.  AT&T also told me they would waive the cancellation fees on my two-year contract because they are basically forcing us out.

If you have had bad AT&T Mobility (formerly Cingular) service in the last few days please call their tech support at (888) 892-9760.  If enough people complain maybe they'll fix the service before we have to start switching providers.



Anonymous narcissa7 said...

I have been having problems (no service fluctuating with weak service) with my ATT mobile since three weeks ago. I live in the mountains and drive 154 daily to work. I've always had good service on the road. When I called tech support to complain they told me it was a temporary problem, that they were adding "improvements" to the system. Seems they lied. I just switched to Working Assets (Sprint is the provider for them.) They are reimbursing me for my penalty fee from ATT.

10/04/2007 10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Partner is still listed on thier coverage site... so it sounds like elephants stomping the grass, aa spat between carriers.

If they changed the terms on you plan without notice, then you might do a small claims court for any costs incurred.

10/04/2007 11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For your house, a celluar booster might do the work.

10/04/2007 11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I quit AT&T many years ago because of poor signals and even poorer customer relations. With the merger of AT&T and Cingular, service and signal strength got better. Now it seems they have reverted back to the old ways. Sad!

10/04/2007 2:32 PM  
Blogger Cookie Jill said...

Better not say anything bad about AT&T. They can dump you just for complaining. (Might be a good way to get out of your contract if you are so thinking about it.....)

Read the fine print on your "contract"

“AT&T may immediately terminate or suspend all or a portion of your Service, any Member ID, electronic mail address, IP address, Universal Resource Locator or domain name used by you, without notice, for conduct that AT&T believes … tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries.”

10/04/2007 8:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anyone in SY Valley is having problems, the term they used for the area is "Restriction Area 115."

Since writing that original e-mail and sending it to my friends, I have switched carriers, but not before AT&T activated a "Passcode" on my on-line account that they claimed I activated. The post from cookie jill makes me wonder, "Was this punishment?" Even AT&T support couldn't unlock my on-line account access. This same support person also made a comment to the effect that if a Restriction Area was in place, they were not likely to change back it soon.

Another intent in writing that e-mail was to determine if what my wife and I were experiencing was really happening of if we were exceptions. Other people in the SB area were telling us they experiencing similar issues. Then, if they were, to let them know AT&T was fairly quick to let us out of the two-year contract without penalties provided we didn't cancel our account (but let the new provider transfer our phone numbers) and let them know the reason was their new service limitation. Even if you don't live in the Valley but just go there occasionally this may be good enough reason to get the same deal when switching.

As for coverage area, the tech I spoke with Tuesday night told me the coverage map was altered. It initially looked the same to her, but when she checked cell tower patters in detail she noticed the change and Restriction Area. I had full service bars at home during all this, but "bars" and number of available open voice channels is not the same thing. Voice calls take considerably more bandwidth than data (think of text messaging as a dirt hiking path and voice calls as a 5-lane superhighway), so each cell tower can usually only handle a certain number of voice calls at one time. If more people in one area want to use voice than the cell tower can handle they get a "Network Busy" message. This is why I had full "bars" and data worked fine but voice did not.

In case anyone is wondering, I have better service since switching providers.

10/05/2007 8:19 AM  
Anonymous Ben said...

My service has been horrible here in Santa Ynez for the last few days, and I rarely had any problem before. I called AT&T and they "sent some info" to my phone, but it still took 3 tries to get my voicemail. I'll complain again tomorrow and encourage others to do the same.

10/05/2007 11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can someone please weigh in with info about who the best provider for SY service is? I will have to switch from AT and T because of this and need some insight. Thank you!!

10/07/2007 5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to have tons of dropped calls with ATT years ago. I switched to Verizon and havnt had any problems in the past 4 years.

10/07/2007 7:45 PM  

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