Opinion: Cellphone coverage stinks in Tahoe Basin | SierraSun.com

Opinion: Cellphone coverage stinks in Tahoe Basin

Heidi Hill Drum
Guest Column

Trying to use your cellphone in the summer in Lake Tahoe is like washing your car in the winter — an exercise in futility.

Is your phone even needed? Are you able to send texts? How about use maps or get directions on your phone? Email? Making calls? Does it seem much worse than previous years?

I'm guessing that 99 percent of you are saying, "Yes. It stinks! My phone has become almost useless this summer." Feel free to add in your favorite curse words to really bring the point home. I'm 100 percent with you.

Fortunately, the Tahoe Prosperity Center's Connected Tahoe project is addressing these problems. But, we need your help. There are six government jurisdictions around the lake and every one of them has a different system for permitting new communication towers, small cell sites and temporary COWs (cellular on wheels).

Every single one of these technology options is needed. While the Tahoe Basin only has 54,000 residents, we have millions of visitors. What happens when all the visitors are here (summer visitation is now higher than winter visitation) and everyone has one to three devices that all need some sort of cell or internet capacity? The entire system gets bogged down, and it does not matter who your carrier is as it is all impacted.

You can help by calling your carrier and let them know you want better service. We also encourage you to call your local elected officials, and city or county management to ask what they are doing to bring in new service.

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Every one of the cellphone companies and internet service providers the Tahoe Prosperity Center works with has said they want to expand in Tahoe. But every one of them is running into one roadblock or another.

This not only hurts moms like me who can't text her son to confirm a location for pickup, but also business owners who rely on cellphone coverage to run their business. And being in the dark ages when it comes to high-speed internet and cellphone capacity puts Tahoe at a severe disadvantage for community and economic development.

But, most importantly, if we have a fire or other emergency, not being able to reach family and friends could be tragic — especially as many residents now have cellphones instead of landlines. We should be encouraging new technology in Tahoe for all of these reasons, but especially public safety.

Technology has greatly improved and small cell sites are easily hidden within existing telephone poles and other utility structures, and can add capacity quickly and easily. The larger sites are being designed to fit within existing height and scenic restrictions.

But, to stay competitive in the 21st century, we can't be left behind the digital divide. If you have poor to nonexistent cellphone or internet, please call your provider to complain and ask that they work on expanding service in the Tahoe Basin.

The more of us they hear from the better. If you have time, also add a call into your local elected officials. Our goal is gigabyte level broadband and 5G or higher cell capacity — please help by reaching out to your provider and elected officials.

Here is who to contact if your cell service is poor:

AT&T – 1 (800) 331-0500

Sprint – 1 (866 ) 866-7509

T-Mobile – 1-(877) 746-0909

Verizon – 1 (800) 922-0204

Here is who to contact if your internet service is poor:

AT&T – 1- (800) 288-2020

Charter – 1 (855) 757-7328

Frontier – 1 (855) 757-7328

Suddenlink – 1 (877) 794-2724

And please take a few minutes to complete our speed test and satisfaction survey online at: http://tahoeprosperity.org/connected-tahoe/.

We'll keep pushing for expanded service and capacity in our region. Tahoe's residents and businesses deserve better!

Heidi Hill Drum is the CEO of the Tahoe Prosperity Center – a Tahoe Basin-wide organization dedicated to uniting Tahoe's communities to strengthen regional prosperity.