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One Of Utica’s Busiest Streets —Oneida Street— Has Been Plagued By A Verizon Dead Zone For A Very Long Time; Residents, Small Biz & Public Officials Have Complained BUT Nothing Is Ever Done; Senator Publicly Calls On Verizon To Investigate & Fix The Problem

Standing With A Baker, Pasta Shop Owner, Grocer, Hair Dresser, A Dry Cleaner, Many Neighbors, Elected Officials & Public Safety Professionals Schumer Will Say Locals Have Asked For Help But Have Been Hung Up On; Senator Makes The Case For Verizon To Fix This Dead Zone That Impacts A City Of 60,000 People & A Major Suburb

Schumer To Verizon: Can You Hear These Folks Now?

Standing with the backdrop of a local bakery, a dry cleaner, pasta shop, a grocer, a hairdresser, many neighbors, elected officials and public safety professionals, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, today, said South Utica and New Hartford residents and small business owners are at wit’s end, plagued by a Verizon cell phone dead zone that stretches wide in the middle of a major upstate city and impedes them from making calls, taking mobile payments and could even risk public safety.

“South Uticans and adjacent New Hartford residents, as well as anyone else who has been here on Oneida Street are at their wit’s end with a cell phone dead zone that seemingly can’t get fixed, and that’s why I am here, to turn up the volume a little on Verizon in hopes that they get the message, hear us now, and fix this problem,” said Senator Schumer. “Residents, small business and public safety officials have all complained to Verizon in one way or the other, but for one reason or another those complaints have never really generated a solution. That is why I am publicly calling on Verizon to investigate this problem, meet with local officials and develop a plan to fix the issue.”

Schumer explained cellular dead zones are areas where there is no cellular signal, either because the signal is being blocked, the tower is too small for the area or because the cell phone tower is too far. Causes for these dead zones can range. For example, cell phone signal is facilitated by a radio frequency (RF) signal via a towers transmit. If the RF signal is too far or is blocked by obstacles, then a cell phone dead area is created. The most common culprits are cell phone tower distance, to topography like hills, mountains, ridges, and foliage because they can absorb or reflect the signal waves, but there are other reasons too, like in New York City, skyscrapers can create dead zones.

Schumer is publicly calling on Verizon to do three things: 1) investigate the problem 2) meet with local officials and 3) come up with a plan to fix the problem ASAP.

Schumer said fixing this problem should have already happened, but that locals have been trying so long they have all but given up hope. Locals detailed the burden; business owners talked about the headaches; and public safety officials detailed some of the risks the dead zone brings to possible emergencies. Schumer revealed a public letter to Verizon as he made the case for swift action.   

“Wireless network coverage is a quality of life issue, a small business issue, an educational issue and, of course, a public safety concern. There has been no better partner to the City of Utica in solving its most complex problems than Sen. Chuck Schumer, and this dead zone on Oneida Street sure fits the bill for one of those complex problems. So many of us have tried—from the neighbors, to the business owners and officials—to urge a fix by Verizon on this dead zone, but the problem persists. I’m thankful to the Senator for once again being a faithful partner, willing to stick his neck out to help us fix this dead zone once and for all,” said Utica Mayor Rob Palmieri

“Take a walk through the Town of New Hartford, ask almost any person if they’ve dropped a call on Oneida Street by Ridgewood, and dollars to doughnuts every single person says ‘yes.’ After years of complaints, Verizon consistently gives paying customers in our community the run around, said New Hartford Town Supervisor Paul A. Miscione. “This is a clear public safety hazard. If there was a major accident or fire, who knows if those effected will be able to reach our first responders. On behalf of the Town of New Hartford, I applaud Senator Schumer for picking up the mantel on this one.”

Schumer detailed the businesses in the Ridgewood plaza that are humbly dealing with the dead zone. He talked about a dry cleaner, a baker, a pasta shop, a hair dresser, a grocer and a mechanic.

“I have pretty much driven all over Utica and let me tell you, this neighborhood plaza is one of the few places left that is totally, 100% small, local business. There are no national chains here. There are no big brands who could throw their weight around with the cell phone companies. These are local, everyday business people who don’t have the time to hire a big lobbyist or call in some big lawyer. You’re all just doing your best trying to make a living as a small business owner, but some of you can’t even use your own cell phone. I’m here to try and turn this around so your customers can use their Apple pay, so you can receive that call from your customer, and so you and all the residents who live around here can get what you pay for: cell service,” Schumer added.

Schumer further revealed that Verizon’s own coverage map actually shows that the area of the dead zone has perfect service when typed in to the search.

“This is a pretty wide dead zone, but on the Verizon map, everything is ‘a-ok,’ full service, but we know that not to be the case at all,” Schumer said.  

Schumer also said dead zones present a public-safety threat, as they might make it impossible for someone to reach police, fire or ambulance services. Fire officials spoke about this fact.

Schumer also said, according to Pew Research, roughly three-quarters of Americans (77%) now own a smartphone. Smartphone adoption has more than doubled since the Center began surveying on this topic in 2011: That year, 35% of Americans reported that they owned a smartphone of some kind.

Like it or not, we’re tied at the hip to our cell phones. But what good are cell phones if we don’t have good service?" Schumer added. “That is why I am publicly calling on Verizon to take swift action here in Utica and New Hartford.”

A copy of Schumer’s letter to Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg appears below:

Dear Mr. Vestberg,

I write today amid reports of a cell phone dead zone in a busy and bustling area of Utica and New Hartford New York that is causing major problems for residents, small businesses and public safety officials in Oneida County. In the City of Utica and Town of New Hartford, people are plagued with poor network performance, specifically a lack of service in areas covered by Verizon. The dead zone at issue extends primarily from the corner of Oneida Street and Higby Road to the corner of Oneida Street and Ballantyne Brae. The dead zone, at times, even stretches well into other parts of South Utica and New Hartford neighborhoods. Oneida Street is a high trafficked road by locals who routinely complain about dropping, or being entirely unable to place calls while driving through the dead zone. To make matters worse, located along the effected stretch of Oneida Street, there is residential housing, a community center, and several small businesses – a Grocery Store, a pasta shop, a bakery, an auto mechanic, a dry cleaner, and a preschool. The dead zone is of particular concern to the effected small business owners, whose livelihood is directly impacted by Verizon’s inability to provide service. Over many months, each of these folks has tried to seek Verizon’s help, but it hasn’t been easy.

Today, wireless connectivity is a necessity for residents and owning and operating a successful business depends on adequate and reliable mobile service. Quality wireless service has become an essential part of modern U.S. infrastructure, just like water, housing and clean air. 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. Unfortunately, on the Verizon Wireless website, the stretch of Oneida Street effected by this dead zone is listed as having both 4G and 5G wireless connectivity. However, this wide dead zone across portions of Utica and New Hartford proves otherwise.  

In conversations with those effected by the Oneida Street dead zone, I learned that residents and small business owners have been complaining to Verizon for a very long time. These folks have practically begged Verizon to come and provide them with the service the pay for, and some of them have complained time and time again to no avail. For some reason, their complaints continue to fall on deaf ears. While I understand from the City of Utica and Town of New Hartford, that discussions with Verizon have been ongoing for years, no permanent solution to this issue is yet underway. Both the City of Utica and Town of New Hartford are ready and willing to work with Verizon to provide service to those effected by the Oneida Street dead zone. It is my hope that this letter will spur you to finally getting this issue resolved.

Again, I urge Verizon act now to meet with locals, investigate and fix the dead zone plaguing members of the Utica and New Hartford communities. I have every confidence that Verizon will take action to quickly and effectively provide service to those effected by this stressful and potentially dangerous dead zone. I thank you for your time, and I look forward to seeing this issue get the fix it deserves.