Finally some answers, though not the ones we
By Misty Fritz
For the Write Team
GILLESPIE (June 21, 2018) – There’s something kind of perfect about holding a meeting about the county’s shoddy cell phone service at Gillespie Civic Center, which is probably one of the worst — if not the absolute worst — dead zones in Gillespie.
While it was heartening to see the long lines of people filing into the civic center Tuesday night and to see enough AT&T representatives present to make it clear that they at least acknowledge there’s an issue, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed with the way the meeting unfolded.
I should pause here to say that I fully commend Gerald Brand for all he has done in recent months to bring awareness to AT&T about the ongoing issues. He created the Macoupin County AT&T User Forum group on Facebook, which has grown to more than 3,600 members and thus can sometimes get contentious, given how attached people are to their cell phones (this is not a judgment — I’m just as attached as the next person); rode along with AT&T representatives while they drove around the county for hours, searching for problems; and set up the town hall meeting at the request of Jim Maurer, the vice president of external affairs for AT&T Illinois.
Part of my disappointment with the meeting was the way several people ignored Gerald’s requests to come up to the podium and microphone if they wanted to ask a question. The civic center is large and has terrible acoustics even when there’s not a huge crowd of annoyed customers; add in that many people and it’s a nightmare trying to hear what someone is saying if they don’t use a microphone or at least make an effort to speak as loudly as possible. The problem is compounded when people start talking amongst themselves and interrupting the people who have the microphone. I was up until after midnight writing up the story about that meeting, and as long as it is, it would’ve been even longer if I’d been able to hear some portions of the discussion — and I was sitting front and center, with pretty good hearing. I feel sorry for those who were sitting at the far edges of the crowd and/or who have trouble hearing; I can only imagine how much of the conversation they missed.
Still, most of my disappointment was in the lack of answers. To steal an oft-used phrase from Maurer, I get it (that and “I understand” made up a bulk of his responses to attendees’ concerns), but that doesn’t mean I’m satisfied. As many people pointed out that night, AT&T cell phone service in Gillespie (I can’t speak for other areas or providers) used to be excellent. That’s why so many people got rid of their landlines and switched to only having cell phones. Back then — five years ago? ten? I’m not sure — cell phones were pretty reliable. Something has changed, but even Maurer said the company doesn’t know what. There haven’t been any towers removed or decommissioned. Nothing is broken. The service just doesn’t work as well as it used to. I have to wonder if it has something to do with the shift in technology, from 3G to 4G and now to LTE. Supposedly the newer technologies are better (that’s usually the way it works, after all), but maybe that’s not the case here, for some reason. I don’t have the answers, any more than Maurer does.
Don’t get me wrong; as someone who has only had AT&T service since I got my first cell phone in high school, I’m glad there are going to be new towers in the southern part of the county to help boost service. I hope they do what they’re intended to do.