Hundreds face phone connectivity issues in Estero, nearby communities

Reporter: Emma Heaton Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

Hundreds of neighbors are frustrated with phone connectivity issues in Estero and other neighboring communities along Corkscrew Road, most revolving around Verizon and AT&T.

Concerned citizens — concerned — over cell phone service.

“Really, I would classify it as probably brutal service,” said Cyndi Childs from The Preserve at Corkscrew.

“I can’t take cell phone calls in here anymore,” said K.J. Moses, president of Bella Terra, a community fellow resident Natalie Steffen described as “where cell phones go to die.”

The people in these neighborhoods are sick and tired of punctuating their phone conversations with “can you hear me?” For the last month, their calls, texts and web searches have barely been getting through, unless they’re connected to WiFi at home. Connected to wifi. Neighbors want to know what the problem is and if someone—at this point, anyone—is going to fix it.

They’ve called their carriers—Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T— but residents say the carriers all had the same response: “Don’t blame us!”

“It’s just… it’s not right,” Childs said. “Something’s wrong, it needs to be addressed. Whether it be these carriers or the mayor or the village or whatever, it needs to be addressed. Because $340 a month for 10% coverage? The end.”

“If we’re not getting these calls, all our companies should be crediting us every single day for days we can’t use our phone,” said another neighbor.

Whose job is it to fix the issue? Village of Estero Manager Steve Sarkozy acknowledges the problem but says the carriers are to blame. WINK News called and emailed each one. T-Mobile didn’t respond, but AT&T offered a short response saying technicians completed equipment repairs earlier in January at one cell site, which may have affected service for some customers in the area. But, “at this time, the wireless network is operating normally in the area.”

Verizon provided a statement as well, saying: “This is an exceptionally dynamic time for our industry and company. Changes in how and where people use the network have shifted network capacity and coverage needs. Significant work is being done in the network to meet our customers’ changing needs. Some work on cell sites recently impacted service in your area. That impact has been resolved and full service restored. Over the next several months, many additional cell sites covering this area will be getting upgrades including access to 5G service using our c-band spectrum and adding capacity on our 4G service.”

Neighbors aren’t only fed up; they’re scared.

“People that can’t get in touch with loved ones, possibly [may] not be able to contact emergency services,” Moses said.

“The biggest concern is if there’s an emergency, a lot of people are concerned if they need to place a call to a loved one or, you know, to emergency service, that they’re not going to be able to make a call,” said Valerie Sims from Bella Terra.

“Our only communication is through a cell phone,” another neighbor said. “And if there’s an emergency, how do we get a hold of EMTs or whoever we might need? Fire department? Anybody? Right. And that’s the issue that I see; the main issue.”

Moses said there are plans to have a cell tower in the Bella Terra neighborhood to boost service, but that won’t be complete until the end of the year.

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