Verizon Wireless service was interrupted on June 24, when several rural communities in Montana lost the ability to roam on to local AT&T towers. The towns included Lincoln, Virginia City, Lima, Broadview and the Absarokee-Fishtail area, according to a state Department of Justice news release.
Late in June, users began to contact the state Office of Consumer Protection and the Public Service Commission to complain about the disruption, said Anastasia Burton, deputy communications director with the Montana Department of Justice.
The service disruption began after a three-year contract allowing calls of Verizon subscribers to roam using AT&T cell towers in-state ended on June 22, according to a news release from Burton. The contract was part of a deal brokered when AT&T bought Alltel from Verizon in Montana in 2010.
Verizon has been attempting to address projected coverage issue in the last three years, according to a Verizon spokesman, and is currently acting to fill in the shortfalls.
On July 2, the carrier responded by deploying cell towers on wheels in rural locations around Montana, according to TV station KAJ18, with additional permanent towers slated to come online in mid-July and early August, accord to a Verizon spokesman.
Ironically, Verizon Wireless sent out a press release in March of this year touting an expansion of its Montana LTE service to include the Great Falls metropolitan area, as well as along I-15 to include the Great Falls International Airport and along Hwy 87 to include Black Eagle. Verizon Wireless had previously launched 4G LTE service in the include Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Helena, Kalispell, Missoula and other locations.
A radio tower belonging to the Montana Highway Patrol fell victim to a forest fire that rushed up the side of a hill in the southeastern portion of the state.
The 75-foot communications tower was left standing but severely compromised by the heat, Major Tom Butler, highway patrol spokesman, told AGL Bulletin.
The highway patrol plans to replace the tower, which broadcasted dispatch communications to nine counties, as part of the state’s transition to digital communications, being paid for by a Homeland Security grant. The structure is one of more than 90 mountaintop sites in the system, which also includes numerous collocated antennas.
After losing the tower, highway patrolman relied on data communications through the Verizon Wireless network and migrated to local county dispatch centers to maintain communications.
The highway patrol is currently collocating antennas on a tower owned by Northwestern Energy, a site it will use until the new tower is built.