By Emily Rackers
Kori Bathe owns Big Ry’s Pizzeria in Rocky Mount, Missouri. The small business feeds the Lake Ozark weekenders and locals alike.
Bathe said that the poor cell phone service she gets in Rocky Mount affects her business. Order-out calls are often dropped or unintelligible.
Unreliable cell phone service affects mid-Missourians in both their professional and personal lives.
“There could be a misunderstanding of their order or they keep trying to call back but the line is busy because of other customers,” Bathe said.
Bathe, originally from the St. Louis area, switched from Sprint to AT&T after realizing she didn’t get service at the Lake of the Ozarks.
“It is much better,” Bathe said. “I don’t have dropped calls. I can usually get through all the time when I need to.”
Tim Turner, Missouri AT&T Traffic and Capacity Manager, said the company has invested more money into providing better service for the Lake of the Ozarks community.
Adding additional cell towers to an area costs between $300,000 to $500,000 depending on the strength of the tower and its features. The monthly cost of operating the tower is about $3,000.
The company assesses network performance in terms of accessibility and reliability to decide if the network needs to be strengthened. Typically it targets high traffic areas like the Lake of the Ozarks.
“It can be adding cell sites, which we’ve done over the last few years,” Turner said. “We’ve added brand new sites to add coverage or improve coverage in the area but it can also mean adding capacity to existing cell sites so that it can handle more traffic.”
The process from deciding to add a tower to its completion averages 18 months.
“We basically tell the C&E team, the construction and engineering team, that we want these sites,” Turner said. “They have to get approved through our headquarters to be built. So we might have thousands of sites in the pipe that we want to build and then we prioritize based on our capital allocation.”
Turner said that ultimately AT&T is a business that wants to make a profit – so the company focuses improvements on highly populated areas. This business model leaves people like Patricia Campbell and Kelly Murray unsatisfied.
“If AT&T is the best, it’s still not that great,” Murray, a Harrisburg resident, said. “They really need to build another cell tower out here but I don’t think the population is high enough.”
Murray remembers when her family had a scary situation on Labor Day a few years ago. While the Murrays were playing basketball, Murray’s aunt fell and broke her hip.
Murray’s home only gets service in specific places. Her family frantically moved around the house and yard to try to get a call through to 911.
“We finally got one,” Murray said. “And then had to send someone to run down to the mailbox to wait for the emergency vehicles to come because if they got lost and tried to reach us, they couldn’t really reach us.”
While emergency situations are the most dangerous time to be without reliable service, it poses an inconvenience to the Murray family at other times as well.
Murray said she worries about her two teenage children being able to reach her.
“We’ve noticed that texts go through,” Murray said. “So if my son is in town and he’s trying to reach me and he’s called, the call will go straight to voicemail. My phone will never ring. So if he’s getting frustrated and can’t reach me, he’ll text me ‘go find a signal’ so I’ll go find a signal and then call him back. That’s how we actually get to talk. I don’t know that he’s trying to reach me until I get that text.”
Ultimately, there’s only one way to describe life without reliable cell phone service.
“It’s a pain in the rear,” Murray said.
Caty Eisterhold is supervising editor. Amy Simons is faculty editor.----------Posted on June 19, 2015 by admin in Student Work