Rural Woes: Spotty Cell Phone Service

Rural Woes: Spotty Cell Phone Service

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Tess Wilson
Oct 10, 2014
(Image credit: Sibylle Roessler)

Last week I commented to my partner, "Well, if I go missing, you'll know the internet and cable companies are behind it," so why not go ahead and piss off the third member of this unholy utility trinity? Let's talk about cell phone coverage.

He assured me that there's no way they're organized enough to put a hit on me, and besides, they can't seem to figure out where I live, no matter how many times I give my address.

We recently moved to rural Illinois, and our cell phone service is terrible. I had to change my outgoing voicemail message to say "Hi! I live in the country so my phone did not ring when you called. Please leave a message, or better yet, send a text." That's right: I pay over $200/month for our family phone plan but my phone does not ring when someone calls. I can only make calls if I sit in a certain chair, and texts and voicemails come through after a serious delay.

According to Verizon's maps (my mom: "Aren't they the ones with the commercial with the man on his cell phone in Antarctica?"), we are fully covered. We are in the darkest, reddest, most-saturated part of their service maps, for voice, messaging, and data, and yet our phones are basically unusable. From what our neighbors say, this has only become a problem in the last year. Before, you could use your phone in the deepest woods or remotest prairies. Now: nothing.

I explained all of this to Verizon, and was told that I could get a signal boost. Yes, please! Boost it up to eleven! No, no: a signal boost is something I could buy, for hundreds of dollars, so that I could receive the service I'm already paying hundreds of dollars for. I ended the call all flustered, because it's the exact opposite of what my 15 years in customer service have prepared taught me. It's like if someone had called my bakery and said, "The cake you sold me is poison," and I had said, "Would you like to buy the antidote?" I would have replaced the cake. I would have replaced the cake as fast as humanly possible, thrown in a gift certificate for next time, paid for their medical bills, and made it up to them.

That's what is so shocking to me about dealing with these cell, cable, and internet companies: there's no attempt to right wrongs. Our phone service we sold you, that we promised would work, that you're contractually obligated to pay for the next two years doesn't actually work? You can buy more stuff to see if it helps. I mean, it might...

Tonight I'm calling back so they can troubleshoot all of our phones (they can't troubleshoot they phone you're calling on), and if they're proven to be fine, which they'd better be because we upgraded in April, an investigation into our area's service will be launched. I'm encouraging our neighbors to do the same, so we'll see if anything changes.

Do you have decent, usable, 21st-century cell phone service where you live? Do you have decent service, but nothing nearly as good as it was 10+ years ago? Has a recent move left you incommunicado?

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