The Main Stream

Jun 18, 2013 8:27 PM by Lorraine Rivera

Concern builds for lacking cell coverage in Summerhaven

TUCSON - Many residents on Mount Lemmon have changed cell phone providers because a tower is currently inactive.

Larry Waldren said he used to have an AT&T cell phone but after the Commnet tower quit transmitting in November he signed a new contract with Verizon. Waldren said he was told the Commnet tower lost frequency due to a lease agreement. He showed News 4 Tucson an e-mail from the company that said they expected the problem to be fixed in the next few months.

Waldren said, "it didn't take too long after I had heart bypass that I wanted to come up here and I just wouldn't feel comfortable at least for 911 when I'm out in the yard and whatever."

He said many of the cell phone websites have coverage maps indicating their areas of service claiming to cover Mount Lemmon including AT&T, which Waldren says is misleading. According to Waldren some providers have service in certain spots while others do not, however, no providers have cell service in Summerhaven. He has since switched providers to Verizon but his wife stayed with AT&T.

"You know it used to be that you save a few bucks by everybody getting on the family plan well I think there's some good in having diversity I mean if you're on two different plans you may waste a little bit of money but if one carrier is down at least you have another," he says.

Captain Jesus Canales from Mount Lemmon fire department said he's heard complaints from people who have to drive several miles to get cell service in order to call for help. He also said dropped calls have presented problems for emergency dispatchers.

"They'll be at site where the person got injured and then they have to drive off to call someone by then they're not really sure more or less where the person is so they'll give us a general area of like two miles and we have to drive through there and actually look for the patient," he says.

In case of emergency Captain Canales said there are two call boxes on Mount Lemmon, one at the Palisades Ranger Station and another outside the Mount Lemmon Fire Station. There is also a pay phone outside of the post office but it's currently out of service.

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