Up until February, I was a Verizon customer for more than 10 years. I got my first cell phone from them when they were still PrimeCo, when I worked in their PR department building out their network. Over the years, I had issues with their less-than-inspiring phones, their higher-than-average rate plans, but never with their network coverage.
Verizon Wireless was, and still is, missing just two things that prevented me for being a customer for life: the ability for international roaming (practically speaking, anyway), and the iPhone.
So I patiently let my contract run out and switched to AT&T just in time for my spring trip to Europe. I brought along my own unlocked Blackberry, so I didn't even sign an annual contract. My number switched instantly, and in Europe, I witnessed the best cell coverage I could imagine. Every call was crystal clear, like it came from a landline.
But back home, I can barely make or receive a call from inside my own house.
And that's a problem, because I ditched my land line a few years ago. AT&T's coverage is notoriously weak in Bay View, but within my house, there is a tiny spot in my kitchen, where, if I stand perfectly still, I may get one bar of coverage.
It's not a whole lot better in other parts of the city, and if my phone is anywhere within 10 feet of my computer, I'm plagued by buzzing and interference that is quickly driving me crazy.
By comparison, my Verizon signal was strong, if not perfect, throughout the house and all over the state. As someone who once worked in the cellular industry, I understand the tower permitting process and everything that comes with it. Still, I figured it was worth a stop the AT&T store to explain my issue. As frustrating as it was, I'm holding out for a 3G iPhone this summer -- but not being able to make a call at home might derail my plans.
I explained the problem to the customer service rep at the AT&T store next to Southridge. She said she'd have a tech person call me in a week.
Two weeks later, having heard nothing, I returned to the store and repeated my concern. They eventually called this tech guy while I waited. He said they are hoping to build a tower in my neighborhood "sometime this summer."
I asked the reps if they could understand my predicament, and why I planned on switching back to Verizon. The manager actually told me that his phone works great at his house on the southwest side of town. I laughed and said, "That's great but I don't live at your house." He just shrugged and shoulders and said, "It's a give and take."
I have no idea what that meant, but I put my iPhone plans on hold and checked back in with Verizon. I asked them if I could return to their service, but continue to go month-to-month if I used my old phone -- while I waited to see if AT&T actually fixed their coverage by my house. I also wanted to see if and when the new iPhone is released, and if it's a deal-breaker. Verizon told me that I'd have to sign a new one-year contract for resumption of service. I found that off-putting, considering I've been a customer since 1997, except with this two-month hiatus.
So now I'm stuck. The Blackberry Curve comes out for Verizon in May, and it looks like a better, but not remarkably better, version of what I've got now. It's no iPhone, but at least I'll be able to use it at home.
Or I can sit around in AT&T cell phone purgatory until "sometime this summer" and hope for the best.
Any tips or suggestions? I'd love to hear them. I'd tell you to call me, but it probably would just go to voicemail, anyway. Instead, try the Talkback feature below.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.