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Schumer Details Results From His Online Crowdsourcing Campaign To Help Identify Dead Zones; Having Good, Quality Coverage Is Essential To Upstate Safety, Business & Every Day To-And-From

Many Carriers Have No Clue Where Dead Zones Exist But Upstate NY Residents Often Know Exactly Where Their Calls Are Constantly Dropped  

Schumer: Carriers Must Come Up With Solution That Meets Community Need & Consent

During a conference call with reporters, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today revealed that, in response to his crowdsourcing campaign to identify and locate dead zones—particularly in Upstate New York—over 4,000 maddening dead zones have been identified. Schumer detailed these dead zones and said there are many areas throughout Upstate New York that experience poor quality when it comes to cell phone network speed, network reliability, data performance, call performance and text performance. Schumer revealed these locations and then publicly asked carriers to come up with a solution to fix them that meets community need and consent. This past winter, Schumer asked Upstate New York residents to submit their local cell phone dead zones via his website. Schumer said this data collection will be used to help wireless carriers better track Upstate New York service interruptions for their coverage maps.   

“When it comes to cell service across Upstate New York, these dead zones are proof carriers need to—quite frankly—raise the bar,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “The entire Upstate New York area should not be home to over 4,000 dead zones. Upstate NY is home to several universities, thousands of businesses and more – so residents’ and business owners’ cell phone coverage must remain uninterrupted. Now communities across the entire state have submitted critical dead zones locations to my office, our wireless carries must make sure they are fixed. I will share these locations to carriers and am urging them to come up with a solution that meets the needs of residents from the Lower Hudson Valley, to the North Country, to Western New York – and everywhere in between.”

During the call, Schumer revealed these reported dead zone locations and publicly asked carriers to come up with a solution to fix them that meets community need and consent. This past winter, Schumer asked residents across Upstate NY to submit their local cell phone dead zones via his website. Schumer said crowd-sourcing this data collection would be used to help wireless carriers better track service interruptions for their coverage maps. This push came on the heels of the news that, in recent years, many New York consumers reported increasing problems with poor network performance, particularly in more rural areas where there are fewer cellular towers and less wireless infrastructure. For example, according to a 2015 Poughkeepsie Journal report, the Hudson Valley ranked amongst the worst of 125 populous U.S. metro areas surveyed for mobile network performance. Many residents in Upstate New York have reported receiving poor cell phone coverage, in spite of wireless companies’ advertisements. Despite these reports of poor service in several areas, Schumer revealed that wireless carriers are labeling regions on coverage maps as having good coverage. In reality, many of these areas are dead zones.

Schumer said quality wireless service must be an essential part of modern U.S. infrastructure, just like roads, mass transit and consumers deserve access to information that allows them to make informed decisions about their wireless carriers. Therefore, Schumer said that wireless carriers need to do everything possible to ensure that New Yorkers have access to cell phone service at all times. Schumer today said that the Upstate NY dead zone locations submitted to his office did not discriminate by region. For instance, dead zone locations found spanned New York State from the City of Buffalo in Western New York to Schenectady in the Capital Region, and from the Lower Hudson Valley all the way to areas like Plattsburgh in the North Country.

In order to better help wireless carriers identify which areas need to be brought up to speed, Schumer today revealed a full list of dead zone locations across Upstate NY. Schumer delivered the crowd-sourced dead zone data to wireless carriers and urged them to come up with a solution that meets the needs of these communities. There were a total of 4,366 dead zones reported across Upstate NY. During the call with reporters, Schumer highlighted these numbers by region:

· In the Capital Region, there were 635 reported dead zones.

· In Western New York, there were 733 reported dead zones.

· In Central New York, there were 407 reported dead zones.

· In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, there were 440 reported dead zones.

· In the Southern Tier, there were 788 reported dead zones.

· In the Hudson Valley, there were 970 reported dead zones.

· In the North Country, there were 393 reported dead zones.

Schumer argued that poor wireless service, and especially inaccurate coverage maps that hide dead zones, hurt consumers and businesses in Upstate New York in several ways. First, Schumer said it 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 Upstate New York are complete dead zones. In addition, Schumer said many Upstate shop owners and local businesses report experiencing dropped calls when using wireless devices to connect with customers, impacting their ability to conduct their business. Third, the lack of wireless coverage throughout areas across Upstate New York could be a threat to public safety. Schumer said that, at best, inaccurate coverage information is inconvenient and expensive for customers; at its worst, it could pose a serious threat to safety. Schumer cited one instance in Sullivan County, in which 54 school-aged children were injured when a school bus crashed. Schumer said this accident proved particularly dangerous when it was discovered there was little to no cell phone service to reach first responders. Finally, wireless services also 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.

In addition to the above tourism, business and health and safety related concerns as related to dead zones, constituents also listed roaming charges and signal boosters as major factors to take into account when it came to dead zones. Schumer explained that many constituents voiced complaints related to cell coverage from Canada overpowering U.S. cell coverage on a consistent basis as a reason for dead zones occurring. While these individuals could turn off automatic roaming on their phones, roaming seems to be a default option on the phone. Thus, individuals have to opt-out of roaming to prevent receiving a Canadian signal. In other words, New Yorkers are boxed in between paying expensive roaming fees, arguing with customer service reps for hours to have these fees taken off or reduced, or turning off roaming and having no service. When it comes to signal boosters, many constituents also reported that they would have no signal in their home if not for a signal booster. These are additional pieces of hardware that consumers must pay for, in addition to their current monthly payments, in order to have service. In short, after paying for cell service and receiving no cell coverage, New Yorkers have had to pay the piper yet again for the service that they should already have had.