AT&T stalls installation of tower for second year

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September 9, 2011

1:26 AM

Countless phone calls have been dropped and text messages missed for AT&T users at the College of William and Mary. While construction work on the long-promised AT&T antenna systems built to improve wireless service on campus is complete, the company has delayed attaching its service to the equipment.

In Oct. 2010, AT&T said its coverage was expected to improve on campus by the end of that year. However, construction was postponed multiple times, first to Feb. 2011, then to March, and now, according to the company, it will begin “soon.”

“We are committed to providing a high quality experience for all of our customers and have been working closely with [Crown Castle] to attach our mobile broadband service to their equipment as quickly as possible,” AT&T representative Gayle Kansagor said in an email. “At this point, it isn’t possible to give you an estimated time of completion, but please know this is a priority and we are working on it.”

The College has worked with Crown Castle International, a communications company that builds cell phone towers and antenna systems in the United States and Australia, over the past year to install antennas at Zable Stadium and the Marshall-Wythe School of Law. The construction was approved by the Williamsburg Planning Commission in Sept. 2009, and contracts with wireless carriers such as AT&T, Verizon and Sprint have been deliberated over the past two years.

Distributed antenna systems are the only means of providing cell phone coverage in the area since the City of Williamsburg has prohibited cell phone carriers and third-party companies from building large cell phone towers in order to maintain the historic look of the community.

A representative from Crown Castle said it was the responsibility of individual carriers to install their service to the antennae in order to deploy the system. Kansagor said the wireless carrier is working to attach its services to the antenna system but could not give an estimate for its completion.

“Williamsburg is definitely a priority for AT&T, and we are working as quickly as possible with our partners to improve service on your campus,” Kansagor said in an email. “Unfortunately, it can sometimes take longer than expected to make these types of network improvements.”

Kansagor declined to elaborate on the cause of the delay.

“Because multiple players are involved, I’m not at liberty to share any more detailed information,” Kansagor said in an email.

Courtney Carpenter, chief information officer for Information Technology at the College, said the construction on the antenna system — implemented by the College and Crown Castle — had been completed, but that AT&T still needed to finish installing its equipment onto the systems.

“They’re working on it as we speak,” Carpenter said. “I’ve been told that it’s supposed to be completed within the next month, but that could easily change.”

AT&T user Laura Caligiuri ’12 has refrained from switching to another wireless carrier because the reception with AT&T is very good in her hometown, but said the poor cell phone service on campus has been frustrating throughout her four years at the College.

“It’s something I have gotten used to,” Caligiuri said. “But there have been moments missing calls and texts that have been annoying. Nonetheless, I do think it’s something the College should address in case of some sort of emergency.”

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