Florida Couple Gets Out of an AT&T Contract

Florida Complaints Added From Article
Boynton Beach couple frustrated by cellphone 'dead zone'

(The map on the right shows you additional cell phone coverage complaints for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint & T-Mobile generated in just two days from the Palm Beach Post article.  One regional newspaper in Florida has generated hundreds of additional complaints and show you the power of social media to suggest change and demand transparency!) 

Full Palm Beach Post Article
Posted: 8:29 a.m. Friday, June 3, 2011

Michelle Peters' AT&T iPhone worked fine when she bought it in October, but when she moved a few miles away she found she was in a "dead zone."

"Our cellphones don't work where we live, and AT&T won't let us out of our contract," Peters, 36, said last week.

When Peters, who works as a makeup artist in Palm Beach, was at home, her cellphone service was unreliable, with dropped calls or no service at all. Her fiancé, Patrick Hurley, 32, a property manager and fellow AT&T customer, had the same problem at their residence north of Gateway Boulevard near Congress Avenue.

Two days after The Palm Beach Post contacted AT&T on their behalf, the company agreed to give them a credit for $599.96, the amount of the cancellation fee for both phones.

While Peters and Hurley are happy with the resolution, they want others to know about their frustration.

"For four months, I have called. They said it was the trees, the weather, the buildings. I said, 'Either way I said, I do not have service,' " Peters said. The couple was told AT&T map lacked a tower in the area, but one would be coming soon, Hurley said.

The last straw came when the couple accidentally set off their burglar alarm and their phones did not work.

"At that point, it became a safety issue," Peters said.

AT&T spokeswoman Kelly Starling said that Peters lives within the provider's footprint, but outlined reasons for the problem.

"Wireless devices are radios and are ruled by the laws of physics. Thick walls, trees, tall buildings, hilly terrain or bad weather can cause interference," Starling said .

AT&T's website shows Peters' address as having "moderate" coverage, the lowest category after "best" and "good." Peters and Hurley tried AT&T's suggestions such as purchasing a 3G MicroCell that acts as a mini-cell tower, but that didn't help, they said .

Starling said AT&T is continually investing in its network to provide the most advanced mobile broadband service. In April, the company announced plans to upgrade 200 local cell sites in the Palm Beach County/Treasure Coast network. The Gateway Boulevard area is one of those benefiting.

Jeff Cohn, founder of Deadcellzones.com, said the scenario is common. The website, which relies on customer reports, shows where so-called dead zones are for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. Palm Beach County has worse coverage than most areas, he said.

"Carriers give us false information about where they provide coverage. The government doesn't require them to do so. There is actual coverage and there is theoretical coverage," Cohn said.

In medium-sized areas such as Palm Beach County, the problem is often due to an insufficient number of cell towers, he said. It can be a problem in areas where no one wants to live near a cell tower.

"Cities are notoriously hard on the carriers in terms of putting up new cell towers," Cohn said.

To get around that, companies are installing smaller antennas on telephone poles, he said.

Cohn said while a cellphone contract may state the service cannot be canceled after 30 days, there is what's known as a "material adverse clause" that allows customers to terminate their agreements if they prove there are problems. He suggests checking his website's maps, then presenting the information to your carrier.  AT&T maps are not always accurate. 

Cohn said one way around the problem is to use a wi-fi network, technology that uses radio waves to provide wireless high-speed Internet and network connection, for cellphones. However, AT&T does not allow customers to route cellphone calls through a wi-fi network.

"The future of cellular is not necessarily in the cell towers," Cohn said. "It has to be with better utilization of wi-fi networks."

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