Thursday, March 17, 2011
‘Zap the Gap’ comes to county
By SUE WATSON
Brandon Presley, public service commissioner for the Northern District, drew a crowd of about 184 to Bethlehem Church of the Lord Jesus Christ last week to gather information about poor cell phone coverage.
He said the Bethlehem area is one of the five worst for cell phone reception in his district, according to Ronnie Joe Bennett, District 5 supervisor.
A count of hands showed that about 90 percent of those present were served by AT&T. Bennett said cell coverage with AT&T south of Potts Camp is very poor.
Others in the audience agreed. Some, like conservation officer Danny Mills, reported good reception and connectivity with Verizon. Mills said he has good cell reception all over the county except at a place on Highway 310.
For Mills, it is about being able to make a call or get a call, he said. His plan is a lean one without Internet.
But Presley’s visit was not about whose product is best but the service in the county, particularly in the Bethlehem area. The crowd was the largest of about five meetings Presley has held in communities, topping a former meeting of about 160, he said. Presley dubbed his tour the “Zap the Gap” program.
Mills said he is exceptionally satisfied with Verizon, but the type of phone may also make a difference. He has a Motorola and just basic phone service.
“I’m not trying to sell Verizon,” he said. “Some folks at the meeting said they didn’t get good service with Verizon and lots of time the kind of phone has a lot to do with your reception.”
The reasons people select a cell phone company have a lot to do with features they want, especially the ability to connect to the Internet (iPhone).
“The big deal for me is getting a call and making a call,” he said. “A boy who works with me has AT&T and sitting right beside me in the truck, he has no service. I’ve got to have reliable service in my job. I’ve had very little trouble getting a signal even off in the woods. I think the big thing is if AT&T had an antenna in that bottom, we’d have good service.”
Mills lives in the Mills Road area in supervisor District 5.
Conway Moore, also a resident of District 5, said she couldn’t get a signal while sitting in Bethlehem Church. She has AT&T.
“He (Presley) told us he would keep us updated and handed out a pamphlet,” she said. “Everybody was very nice. There was a guy from Lafayette County and a couple of people from Benton County, but most of the rest were from Marshall County and District 5.
“I’m AT&T and I think I need to switch to Verizon. The service in that area is awful. Of course, I ride the county and that’s the worst service I have run into at Bethlehem. When I go over in that area, I’m praying, ‘Lord, please don’t let me have car trouble.’ I have no contact most of the time and if it comes in, pop! and it’s gone.”
Most of the people in attendance were residential customers, she said.
Bennett said no telephone company representatives attended and that Presley said AT&T had not come to any of his community meetings, so far.
“He said he is one of three commissioners and when it comes up for whether the phone companies get federal dollars or not, all he has is one vote,” Bennett said. “That money automatically comes to the state and he’s just one vote out of three. He said all he can do to help us is to vote against it in October (giving federal dollars to the companies). I guess what I’m going to do is change to Verizon. Nothing was accomplished, but people can change service. He said if people want to switch service and AT&T won’t let them out of their contract, for them to call his office for help with that because the service they are supposed to be getting they are not getting.”
To reach Presley’s office, call 1-800-356-6428 or 1-800-637-7722.
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