Officials and technicians with AT&T held a public forum Saturday to meet with Denison customers regarding cellphone service in the city. The meeting comes following AT&T improvements to local infrastructure and ongoing complaints regarding poor service and coverage.
“AT&T is committed to our customers in Denison,” Regional Vice President of External Affairs Mike Peterson said Saturday. “We've invested $3.9 million in infrastructure upgrades in the area.”
Representatives for the phone company provided information on the improvements the company has installed in recent years. Technicians also looked into individual cases with customers to determine whether there may be other issues causing service problems or if trouble spots still exist.
Peterson said complaints regarding AT&T service started nearly two years ago, when a cellphone tower serving portions of the city was vandalized and destroyed. Within a day, AT&T technicians had set up a temporary tower, with a new replacement tower being put in place in July 2016.
However, some local customers are still having issues with their service. Common issues brought up during Saturday's meeting ranged from poor reception in portions of the city to frequently dropped calls. Peterson said AT&T is still working to improve local infrastructure, and has seen improvement on its side following an adjustment to local equipment earlier this summer.
Beyond the issues with the towers, Peterson said many local customers were still using older 3G service, and would receive improved signal and speed from more modern 4G service. Technicians were on hand to walk customers through the process, he said.
Among those in attendance for Saturday's forum was Bobby Slate, who said she has been a customer with the company for over 70 years.
“I inherited this number, fifth generation, and the first to have it on a cellphone,” she said.
Slate, who lives near Grandpappy Point and Lake Texoma, said service at her home is rarely above one bar. She added that missed and dropped calls were common issues she sees with her service. These issues arose in late 2015 following the loss of the cellphone tower, she said.
“Sometimes when it is cloudy, you can get up to two bars,” Slate said. “Back then, I wasn't able to get full reception, but it was better.”
Slate said she gave her information to the technicians and was told her case would be looked into. She added that she is hopeful that the issues can be addressed, but still had her doubts.
While many of the issues have been centered around downtown Denison, Daniel Bergland said the issues also affect surrounding neighborhoods. Despite living about seven blocks north of downtown, he said he has to make calls from outside his home. Bergland said the issues are significantly worse during major events downtown, including football games.
During Saturday's forum, Bergland attempted to conduct a speed test of his connection to show technicians, however the test failed to make a connection. A few minutes later, Bergland tried the test again, and was able to make a connection to the network.
Following the forum, Bergland and his wife said they plan to switch service to Verizon now that their contract with AT&T has expired. After speaking with representatives, Bergland said he got the impression that there was no plan in place to remedy the situation.
“For the last year and a half it has just been, 'We're looking into it,'” he said.
However, not all AT&T customers appear to be having issues. Kim Ramey, who was provided for comment by AT&T representatives, said she has no issues with service from her home off of Crawford. Ramey said she was having issues immediately following the cell tower incident, but service has since returned to normal.
“It wasn't something I couldn't get past by stepping out of my home,” she said, describing the 2015 incident.
For Deborah Remezani, the service issues have caused unnecessary heartache this week. Remezani said she was unable to get in contact with her daughter, who works about two blocks away from the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, due to her cellphone coverage following a shooting that left more than 50 dead and hundreds injured.
“I kind of had a meltdown,” Remezani said. “If I can't get on Facebook or a call with my kid, I don't know if they are okay.”
Like Bergland, Remezani said she didn't feel like she received any solutions to her problem. When she spoke to a technician, the representative wanted her to buy a new cellphone, she said.
“That doesn't solve the problem,” she said. “They have nice, happy people but I didn't hear any solutions to the problem.”