The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

December 5, 2013

AT&T responds to Monroe County service complaints

By Tina Alvey
Register-Herald Reporter

UNION — Acknowledging that last month’s cellular telephone service interruption in parts of Monroe County was “unacceptable,” AT&T Regional Vice President Andy Feeney outlined the steps the communications company has taken to correct the situation.

Feeney personally delivered the report to Monroe County Commissioners during their regular session Wednesday morning, explaining that the service failure occurred in the midst of an ongoing upgrade of West Virginia wireless service.

“We are building a robust wireless network in Monroe County that will drive innovation, create jobs, strengthen the economy and benefit consumers and local businesses,” Feeney wrote in a formal statement to the commission.

He told commissioners that in order to upgrade the Union area from 2G to 3G services, the company had to build a stronger tower to support those new services. Once the antennas on the new 3G tower are activated, the old tower will be dismantled.

The problem last month arose when AT&T’s prime contractor arranged for the 2G tower’s owner to take care of the tower-related work. The owner, in turn, hired a sub-contractor to take the 2G antennas off the old tower, but that sub-contractor removed the antennas from the old tower before the new tower’s antennas were activated, thus creating a service outage.

It took AT&T workers several days of “tinkering” with the system to restore full service, Feeney said.

“We’re very sorry about this,” he told the commission. “It’s not our standards.”

He added, “This was not the run-of-the-mill problem that takes 24 hours to fix.”

In his written statement, Feeney noted that the company has taken two actions going forward.

“First (AT&T) has imposed a significant financial penalty on its prime contractor for breach of its obligation to supervise the upgrade activities,” Feeney wrote. “Second, it has notified the tower owner that its sub-contractor may not perform any future work on AT&T projects.”

On a brighter note, Feeney said that Monroe County will have 3G broadband service within the next few weeks, with the expectation that 4G service will follow sometime in late 2014.

He explained that while 2G service includes only voice and texting capability, with dial-up data access, 3G offers voice with broadband data service, and 4G is a faster service than either of the other two.

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com