As thousands head to the hills near Dillon, Montana for the Rainbow Family gathering, COWs have now been deployed to monitor their activities.
From an official press release from the Attorney General’s office:
Options Announced for Montanans Effected by
Recent Verizon Service Disruptions
HELENA – Verizon subscribers who recently began experiencing a disruption of cell phone service now have options available to help them improve coverage or switch carriers.
Last Monday, the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) at the Montana Department of Justice began receiving calls from customers in primarily rural areas who experienced a disruption of service after a three-year contract allowing calls of Verizon subscribers to roam using AT&T cell towers in-state ended June 22. The contract was part of the deal brokered when AT&T bought Alltel from Verizon in Montana in 2010.
As a temporary solution, Verizon has deployed “COWs”— cellphone towers on wheels — in Lincoln, Virginia City, Lima, Broadview, between Absarokee-Fishtail, as well as in Jackson to meet the needs of law enforcement monitoring the Rainbow Family Gathering this week. Even with COWs, coverage may not be what it was before the transition. To remedy this, Verizon is also deploying repeaters that can re-broadcast signals and enhance range, as well as add coverage to existing permanent facilities with the goal of expanding previous coverage capabilities.
Verizon has committed to investigate any other coverage problems reported in other areas. The company is also planning on adding permanent towers this week in Marion and Tarkio. Permanent towers are also planned for Lincoln and Columbus by the end of August.
“Over the years, many Montanans dropped their landline phone service and now rely exclusively on cell phones,” said Attorney General Tim Fox. “Having reliable mobile phone service is a public safety issue for Verizon consumers and law enforcement in the areas impacted by the service transition. We thank Verizon for their commitment to work around-the-clock to resolve coverage issues and address ways to satisfy their customer’s concerns.”
Montanans experiencing coverage problems can call Verizon Technical Support at 1-888-333-0341. In some cases, callers may be assisted with a rebooting process to enable their phones and devices recognize other towers on the company’s preferred roaming list network, resulting in better coverage. Technical support will also issue customers a trouble ticket number for future follow up.
Additionally, Verizon is offering customers who choose to stay with the carrier billing and/or equipment discounts. These discounts will also apply to a Verizon Network Extender, which enhances indoor coverage and provides more reliable service. For customers who choose to switch carriers, Verizon has agreed to waive any applicable early termination fees, which range from $175 — $350. To pursue either option, pre-paid consumers should call Verizon Customer Service at 1-888-294-6804; all others should call 1-800-922-0204.
Last week, OCP and the Montana Public Service Commission received calls from effected Verizon consumers in Geraldine, Absarokee, Ft. Benton, Browning, Harlem, Evaro, Cascade, Stanford, Lincoln, Ennis, Virginia City, and Great Falls. OCP staff are reaching out to each of those callers via phone and mail to provide updates and detailed information regarding available options.
If you are in the Dillon area and have a picture of these COWs, shoot me an e-mail with your photos. To give you an idea of what a cell tower on wheels may look like, here’s a previous report from a TV station in Kansas City.