Good Question: Why so many dropped calls in Pittsford?

November 20, 2017 06:36 AM

Some Verizon customers are noticing spotty cell phone service and they believe there's something sinister behind it. They reached out to Pat Taney for this week's Good Question Report.

Pittsford resident and Verizon customer Melissa Peets is growing more and more frustrated.

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"We've never had a problem with cell reception and now we're dropping calls, having it constantly say it's loading to get out calls. Even text messages aren't sending in a timely fashion," she said.

Peets is not alone. On the social media app, Nextdoor, a slew of other neighbors and Verizon customers are complaining their service has also been spotty.

"It's literally happening all over Pittsford," Peets said.

And everyone noticed cell service diminish around the same time.

"It started in September. Our service was fine until that month, then, come September, we started losing bars on our phone." Peets said.

Peets and others are making a shocking claim. They worry Verizon is intentionally doing this and here's why.

Verizon has been fighting to construct a cell tower on the property of the United Church of Pittsford on South Main Street.  It's been getting a lot of push back from people here and is currently under review by the Planning Board.

Here is what Verizon has to do to get this approved by the planning board:

"One of the things the applicant (Verizon) has to demonstrate is a need to have to put a cell tower where they propose to put it." Said Pittsford Town Supervisor William Smith.

A lot of sudden drop calls people here say, helps Verizon's case.

"They can do it on purpose so that's what we think is going on right now," said Peets.

In a statement, Verizon adamantly denies the claims. Spokesperson David Weissmann said: "We don't engage in those types of practices."
He also said, tower issue aside, the company has already worked in Pittsford to improve service.  

"We have made additional investments to improve connectivity in the area, including the addition of several small cell antennas and a new cell site near the intersection of I-490 and Route 31," Weissmann said.   

Residents in Pittsford don't buy it. They believe a sudden drop in calls all at the same time is more than a coincidence.

So could Verizon intentionally drop calls if the company wanted to?

"They do have the ability, sure! They could literally turn the tower off.' said Mark Indelicato, an Associate Professor in Telecommunications at R.I.T. But he cautions:

"Would they (Verizon) do such a thing? No. They have a responsibility to maintain service and I think it would be a very nefarious thing to do," Indelicato said.

As for the proposed cell phone tower on South Main Street, it is still going through the approval process. The planning board is still waiting for more information from Verizon to prove the need to put the tower in that specific area.

Web Extra: Read full Verizon statement and email thread with Pat Taney here: 

First Message:

From: Taney, Pat
Sent: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 11:00 AM
To: Weissmann, David  

Hi David: 

My name is Pat Taney and I am a reporter with WHEC-TV, NBC in Rochester, NY. I am working on a story about, what residents in the community of Pittsford NY (Suburb of Rochester), call major coverage problems with Verizon cell phones. As you know, Verizon is trying to build a cell tower in Pittsford but has had some push back. One viewer reached out with the following message:

"There is a big discussion going on through the NextDoor app about Verizon's cellular service in Pittsford. It is no secret that driving through here will cause dropped calls and poor reception. I went from 5 bars early in the summer from my home to a consistent 2 bars in September. Everyone I talk to says they are having the same problem. There is a large part of our community in Pittsford who feel strongly that Verizon is retaliating against the village for fighting the cell tower they want to put up by intentionally reducing the service provided by the local tower(s). Some of us have been given inside information that this is in fact why our service suddenly became bad around September. The Verizon employees at the Pittsford Store vehemently insist it is the number of people using the few towers we have that is causing the problem. When I told them that I didn't believe them, nothing about their story changed and no one offered to tell their company about the problem or help. It is upsetting that we can pay so much for service and feel so powerless as a big company tries to force a structure on our community by creating a problem that wasn't there before."

Is there a chance we can get a statement or response? Is there anyone locally we can interview on camera?

Thanks in advance!
Pat Taney
Anchor, News 10NBC Today

First response from Verizon: 

From: Weissmann, David  
Sent: Thursday, November 16, 2017 10:55 AM
To: Taney, Pat

Subject: Re:  Media Request
Hi Pat
Good to connect by phone yesterday.
We take very seriously our mission of keeping customers and first responders connected.
More people in more places are using more devices to do more things.  As a result, there is growing demand for wireless coverage and capacity in Pittsford and around the country. That growing demand needs to be met with additional network equipment and cell sites to ensure all users have the experience they have come to expect from our network.
As we work through the process of adding a cell site in Pittsford that will add additional capacity, we have made additional investments to improve connectivity in the area, including the addition of several small cell antennas and a new cell site near the intersection of I-490 and Rt 31.  

David Weissmann
Public Relations Manager – North East Market

Pat Taney's response to Verizon:

On Nov 16, 2017 10:57 AM, "Taney, Pat" wrote:
Hi David:
Thanks for the response. I still would need a comment about the allegations being made against Verizon. In the words of several town residents: Verizon is "Intentionally" degrading service to build a case of need for the tower.
Does Verizon have a response to that?
Thanks again!

Verizon's response:

On Nov 16, 2017, at 11:03 AM, Weissmann, David wrote:

The statement does address it. 

We have been making additional investments for network improvements in the area this year. 

David Weissmann
Public Relations Manager- North East Market
Verizon Wireless

Pat Taney's response:

On Nov 16, 2017 11:36 AM, "Taney, Pat" wrote:

So am I safe to assume that means any accusation that Verizon has intentionally changed its network or system so people have less "bars" or "coverage" in the Pittsford area is, according to Verizon, false?

Again residents say this is something they started to notice in September but had no problems before that time. 

Many feel it's an attempt by Verizon to put pressure on the town for the tower on South Main Street.

Thanks again


Verizon's final response: 

On Nov 16, 2017, at 11:41 AM, Weissmann, David wrote:

We don't engage in activities that negatively impact the experience of our customers.

David Weissmann
Public Relations Manager- North East Market
Verizon Wireless


Pat Taney

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