10.12.15

SCHUMER: CELL PHONE WIRELESS CARRIERS ARE WRONGLY CLAIMING QUALITY RECEPTION ON COVERAGE MAPS FOR DUTCHESS COUNTY; IN REALITY, AREAS ARE OFTEN DEAD ZONES; SCHUMER CALLS FOR FEDS TO IMMEDIATELY INVESTIGATE DECEPTIVE COVERAGE MAPS

Network Service In The Hudson Valley Ranks Very Poorly Amongst Populated Metro Areas In The United Sates

Major Wireless Carriers Are Displaying Most ‎Of Dutchess County As Having Good Quality Coverage, When Many of Those Areas Are Actually Dead Zones

Schumer To Feds: Dutchess Cell Phone Consumers Should Know The Truth About Coverage Areas  

Standing at the intersection of Tyrrel Rd. and South Road in Dutchess County, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today revealed that wireless carriers are labeling regions on coverage maps as having good coverage when, in reality, they many areas are dead zones. Schumer said that those who live in Dutchess County know all too well about coverage problems. That is why Schumer is asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate whether network providers are fairly and accurately advertising wireless coverage so that consumers can make informed choices.

“There are more cell phone dead zones in Dutchess County than post-winter potholes on the West Side Highway – and misrepresenting coverage maps to give the impression a wireless carrier provides coverage in an area where it does not is false advertising, pure and simple,” said Schumer. “Wireless carriers must be held accountable to produce accurate coverage maps.”

Schumer said that at best, this is inconvenient and expensive for customers; at its worst, this lack of service could pose a serious threat to safety. That is why Schumer is urging the FCC to look into this practice and immediately crack down on the lack of transparency and accuracy in wireless carriers’ coverage maps, which currently leads consumers to incorrectly believe there is good cell service in their area.

Schumer explained that wireless carriers often use coverage maps to show that their company offers superior coverage compared to competitors. However, because Americans are increasingly relying on wireless technology to communicate, customers rely on these coverage maps advertised by the carriers to make their purchasing decisions. Schumer said that is exactly why it is critical these maps be accurate. In recent years, many New York consumers have reported increasing problems with poor network performance, particularly in more rural areas, like Dutchess County, where there are fewer cellular towers and less wireless infrastructure. One of the areas that receives poor cell phone coverage, despite wireless companies’ advertisements, is the Hudson Valley, including Dutchess County.

According to recent Poughkeepsie Journal report, the Hudson Valley, including Dutchess County, ranked amongst the worst of 125 populous U.S. metro areas surveyed for mobile network performance. Despite major network carriers advertising full coverage in their maps in most areas of the Hudson Valley, the report says the actual service in the area performed poorly in five of six major categories, including overall performance, network speed, network reliability, data performance, call performance and text performance. Schumer said this is unfair to consumers who do their research before making a decision regarding cell phone carriers and are left surprised following the purchase when they realize many areas in Dutchess County, and throughout the Greater Hudson Valley area, are complete dead zones.

Schumer said that without accurate coverage maps, consumers in the Hudson Valley and across the nation are forced to go through the onerous, expensive and sometimes dangerous experience of dead zones, dropped calls and poor clarity. With the proliferation of smart phones in particular, consumers are using wireless carriers far more than landlines to keep in touch with loved ones, peers, and business contacts. In addition to communicating, wireless services support global positioning system (GPS) products that are essential to residents and tourists alike. Schumer said the lack of wireless coverage could make tourists reluctant to travel to an area knowing they will not have the ability to use their GPS technology to explore the area or make calls in an emergency situation. Schumer said area shop owners and local businesses have also reported experiencing dropped calls when using wireless devices to conduct business with customers, and this could impact their ability to succeed. Schumer cited the fact that local business owners in places like Pawling have been forced to purchase and rely on cell phone service boosters because of the poor coverage. These boosters allow the owners to conduct their business as well as ensure customers and employees alike can use their cell phones when visiting area stores and shops, even though wireless carriers claim these places have adequate coverage.

As a result, Schumer said this lack of coverage is not only inconvenient, it is becoming an economic deterrent. With the tourism industry now bringing over $500 million to Dutchess annually, it is critical small business owners, customers and tourists have access to adequate cell service throughout Dutchess County. Finally, the lack of wireless coverage throughout the Hudson Valley, including Dutchess County, can be a threat to public safety. Schumer said there have been many crashes and fatalities on precarious stretches of road in Dutchess County, including Routes 44 and 55 as well as the Taconic State Parkway, which is locally notorious for its curves and slim lanes with little or no shoulder. Schumer said that, according to a Poughkeepsie Journal report, a 38-year-old Brewster woman died after a car crash on the Taconic State Parkway South just this past summer in August. This accident happened near the exit for Route 55 in LaGrangeville. Another crash in July, on the Taconic State Parkway, killed a local driver and left four injured, including three children. Schumer said that because this area is known for its spotty cell service, crashes in these areas and on local roads are particularly dangerous when it is difficult for those at the scene of an accident to call for help. Schumer said with icy roads and winter months just around the corner, these roads present even more of a danger, and are often the location of many dangerous crashes during the colder months.

For these reasons, Schumer said quality wireless service must be an essential part of modern U.S. infrastructure, just like water, housing and clean air, and consumers deserve access to information that allows them to make informed decisions about their wireless carriers. As a result, he is urging the FCC to investigate and closely examine the wireless coverage of the Hudson Valley. Schumer said this is needed to ensure network carriers are advertising accurate coverage maps, for convenience, economic development and public safety purposes. Now, more than ever before, Schumer said, it is critical that the FCC help protect consumers by ensuring that network carriers are providing accurate representations of the wireless service that consumers will receive.

“Improved cell service is critical to the Hudson Valley's economic future. As we continue to grow as a tourism destination, for example, it's essential that locals and visitors alike have dependable cell service to carry on business, reach out to restaurants or sites, and stay in touch with their families. It is unacceptable for our region to rank last nationwide in network performance while coverage maps display otherwise. We thank Senator Schumer for his advocacy on this issue and hope the FCC will take action,” said Assemblymember Didi Barrett

“Now, more than ever, we rely on our cell phones to communicate with loved ones, friends and colleagues. Our residents need factual cell phone coverage information in order to make an informed and educated decision for themselves and their families. And, we need consistent countywide service for all residents and cellphone users. On behalf of the residents of Dutchess County, I join with U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer in asking the FCC to research the accurate and honest representation of advertised wireless coverage in the Hudson Valley,” said Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to the FCC appears below:

Dear Chairman Wheeler, 

Thank you for your dedication to ensuring that all Americans have access to quality telecommunication services. I am writing to you today because I am concerned about the disparity between the wireless coverage that carriers show on coverage maps and the actual access my constituents experience in New York.  I ask that you investigate whether network providers are fairly and accurately advertising wireless coverage so that consumers can make informed choices.  New York consumers have reported increasing problems of poor network performance, in particular lack of service in areas that are advertised as covered.

Americans increasingly rely on wireless technology to communicate and keep in touch with loved ones, peers, and business contacts. With the proliferation of smart phones, these devices have become necessary parts of people's everyday lives.  In addition, wireless services support global positioning system (GPS) products which can be essential to residents and tourists alike. Customers rely on the coverage maps advertised by the carriers to make their purchasing decisions. That is why it is critical that the maps provided in stores and on the carriers’ websites are accurate.

In fact, a recent study released by RootMetrics ranked Hudson Valley, New York in last place of 125 populous U.S. metro areas surveyed for mobile network performance. Despite major network carriers advertising full coverage on their coverage maps in most areas of the Hudson Valley, the study found that the actual service in the area failed in six categories: overall performance, network speed, network reliability, data performance, call performance and text performance. Without accurate coverage maps, consumers in the Hudson Valley and across the nation are forced to go through the onerous and sometimes dangerous experience of dead zones, dropped calls and poor clarity. Now, more than ever before, it is critical ‎that the FCC help protect consumers by ensuring that network carriers are providing accurate representations of the wireless service that consumers will receive.

Quality wireless service is ‎now an essential part of modern U.S. infrastructure, just like water, housing and clean air, and consumers deserve access to information that allows them to make informed decisions about their wireless carriers. I support the FCC's transparency requirements, and strongly urge the Commission to examine the wireless coverage of Hudson Valley, New York to ensure that network carriers are advertising accurate coverage maps.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

U.S. Senator

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