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Long IslandPolitics

Schumer asks providers to fix cellphone dead zones on LI

Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks at a news conference

Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks at a news conference in Manhattan on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling on cellphone providers to fix more than 200 dead zones with little to no service across Long Island.

In January, Schumer (D-N.Y.) launched a crowdsourcing campaign asking the public to identify through his website cellphone locations with spotty service affecting calls, texting and internet access.

At a news conference Thursday at Whitney Pond Park in Manhasset, where Schumer said service is often poor, he cited 235 locations in Nassau and Suffolk counties that residents had identified — and his staff had confirmed — as dead zones.

They include heavy clusters on the North Shore in Huntington, Port Jefferson, Great Neck and Manhasset and in South Shore communities such as Levittown and Bay Shore.

Schumer said poor cellphone service can be both inconvenient and potentially dangerous.

“In some cases it could be a safety situation,” Schumer said, adding that first responders have expressed concern that some calls may not be reaching them in time. “If you need an ambulance, police or fire and your cellphone is not working, it could cause real trouble.”

Poor wireless coverage could also affect GPS service, discouraging tourists from traveling to certain locations, Schumer said. Businesses without a landline, he said, could also see a drop in revenue if calls cannot be received.

Schumer sent the list of dead zone areas to cellphones carriers such as T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T and Verizon and encouraged them to address the problem.

Sprint spokeswoman Adrienne Norton said the company was adding more cell sites across Long Island over the next nine months.

“We’re committed to making sure Sprint customers have a great experience on our network and we’re investing to improve our coverage and reliability on Long Island,” Norton said.

Representatives for AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile did not respond to requests for comment.

In some cases, Schumer said, the fixes are technological.

For example, he said, providers can change the service in some areas from 3G to 4G, update their network software or increase the intensity of their signal.

In other spots, he said, providers should commit to more routine maintenance work or invest in infrastructure improvements, such as building a cellphone tower.

Residents of many Long Island communities, such as Kings Park, Franklin Square and Lindenhurst have objected to the construction of cellphone towers in their areas, often citing aesthetics and concerns about declining property values or increased cancer risks.

Schumer said new cellphone towers should be built “only in a community-friendly way and in accord with community wishes.”

While cellphone providers are private companies and cannot be forced into fixing the dead zones, Schumer pledged to publicly identify any firm that is resistant to the improvements. Cellphone providers, he said, could also be subject to a lawsuit “if there is a safety problem” and the dead zone problems were ignored.

Schumer plans to release a list of dead zones in New York City, the northern suburbs and in upstate as the data is compiled.

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