Feds intervene in Basalt cell service dispute, prompting answer from Verizon | AspenTimes.com

Feds intervene in Basalt cell service dispute, prompting answer from Verizon

The Federal Communications Commission's intervention into Basalt's cellular telephone service issues prompted Verizon Wireless to offer a few more details about its planned upgrade in the midvalley.

Verizon said it doesn't have a date certain yet for installation of a cell tower at the Willits Industrial Center but the improvement likely will be made this summer.

The FCC got involved at the request of Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt, who sent a letter to Verizon on Feb. 20 and copied the federal agency. That letter was "written on behalf of the citizens and businesses in and around the town of Basalt." It detailed the problems that businesses and residents are experiencing with dropped calls, dead zones and slow speeds. The lousy service presents a public safety issue because some people cannot make calls for emergency services, the letter said.

The FCC treated the letter as a complaint and gave Verizon a chance to respond. Verizon said in a March 16 reply that it is awaiting federal government approval for a cell tower. That is one of the final steps in the process, the wireless provider said.

“For these reasons, we are unable to commit to a ‘date certain’ when construction will commence and the site will be active.”

— Verizon’s response to Federal Communications Commission

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"Once obtained, we hope to complete the build phase within 90 days of breaking ground, barring any variables out of our control, such as weather," Verizon said in the letter to the FCC that also was sent to Whitsitt. "For all the reasons already stated, we can only approximate a completion date which we project to be in the summer of 2018."

Verizon's reply acknowledged it has heard loud and clear about Basalt's frustrations.

"Over the past several months, we have responded to repeated inquiries from Mayor Whitsitt, Basalt's city manager, consumers and local media reiterating that Verizon must follow a prescribed process in order to begin construction of a site and that the timing of securing the required approvals is largely beyond our control," a Verizon executive wrote. "For these reasons, we are unable to commit to a 'date certain' when construction will commence and the site will be active."

The FCC told Whitsitt it would consider the matter closed unless it received additional information from her.

"We reviewed the provider's response and based on the information submitted, we believe your provider has responded to your concerns," the federal agency said.

Whitsitt said she was "not completely" satisfied with Verizon's response. The town government will continue to press the cell service provider for more information on a specific timeline for the construction of the tower, she said.

The town also is considering sending a letter to Colorado's Congressional delegation noting that Verizon said it's awaiting federal approval for its project and asking the members of Congress to help speed that process.

Verizon received approval in October from the Town Council to build the tower. Verizon applied Feb. 16 for a building permit, which would be valid for six months with possible extensions.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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