By Ray Van Dusen/Monroe Journal
ABERDEEN – During the past several weeks, it’s been hard not to hear of someone’s displeasure with the service, or lack thereof, of his or her AT&T mobile device in the Aberdeen area.
“It’s bad when you get 27 text messages and 11 voicemails at once. It’s also pretty bad that I was house sitting for someone while they were in California and I texted to ask when he was coming home and he finally got the text three weeks later, which was one week after he got back,” said Sheila Higgins of Aberdeen.
From phone calls going straight to voicemail with the same voicemail chimes sounding off hours later to receiving a text message 40 minutes after it was sent or receiving several text messages at once when making a call, local AT&T service has been interrupted.
“Our network technicians are working to identify hardware issues on one of the site towers that provides service to Aberdeen. If you have a site tower not taking call and data traffic as it should, the next tower is taking on all the work,” said Mike Barger, ATamp&T spokesperson for Mississippi.
According to an AT&T customer service representative, Aberdeen’s tower was reported down on Nov. 30 and it’s the closest tower in a 10-mile radius of Aberdeen.
In the early morning hours of Nov. 30, an EF2 tornado packing winds of 115 miles per hour stretching 500 yards long and 125 yards wide cut a path of destruction through southern Monroe County.
According to building inspector, David Low, problems with AT&T’s Aberdeen tower apparently originated months before the EF2 tornado.
“I was originally contacted in June by a consultant originally asking about a location for a new tower and he indicated there were existing problems. Instead, a permit was pulled to work on the existing tower. It was a week-long process for the fix, but the contractor left and never called me for the final inspection,” Low said.
The physical address of the tower is 715 A East Commerce Street, in the vicinity of Best Western.
Rumors have swirled that the wireless company is upgrading service locally to its 3G network and service may return to normal as early as mid-January and as late as June. Several people have received several different explanations regarding the poor service when speaking with customer service representatives.
“Aberdeen’s customers are very important to us and we hope to have the issue resolved as soon as our techs can identify the problem. The problem is currently classified as an open ticket, in which we’re aware of the problem and are working on it. It won’t be until February or June for it to be fixed as some people have been told,” Barger said.
According to Barger, AT&T has plans for a new tower sometime this year for the Aberdeen area and 3G is expected sometime in the future as well. He also states several factors affect the timeline on projects such as these.
“I threatened to switch service providers and they gave me a credit, but you really can’t put a price tag on your cell service. You’ve got to wonder if it would even dial into 911 in case of an emergency. Doctors and nurses who are on call need to rely on reliable service,” Higgins said.
In the terms relating to the use and limitations of service in its wireless customer contracts, AT&T states that the company will not be held accountable for damage or injury caused by failure or delay in connecting a call to 911 or any other emergency service. It also states that through limitations by liability, services may be interrupted, delayed or otherwise limited for a variety of reasons, including environmental conditions.
The city of Aberdeen, which has accounts with AT&T for a few city employees, has also encountered problems.
“I did contact them regarding our city’s accounts and they were nice enough to give us credits. We’ve had the same problems as anyone else and it’s frustrating since we’re used to such an instant service,” said Jackie Benson, city clerk.
Barger encourages AT&T customers to contact the customer service department with any problems, concerns and frustrations with their service. AT&T can be reached on cell phones by calling 611 or 1-800-331-0500.