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Cell phone service disrupted for some residents

January 29, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A Boonsboro cell phone user says he has paid his bills and lodged complaints, but problems with his signal have not been corrected.

Bill Robinson said Thursday that he had not had service for about three weeks.

"So, right now, nobody can call me, and I can't call anyone from my office in Boonsboro," said Robinson, who uses the phone for business.

The elimination of a cellular tower on state land has nixed the signal for customers in southern Washington County, Cellular One and Maryland Department of Natural Resources officials said.

"We are currently relocating our cell site that serves the town of Keedysville, Md. This relocation was necessary because the tower - which we did not own - on which our site was located was dismantled," Cellular One spokesman Craig Davis wrote in an e-mail to The Herald-Mail earlier this month.

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Ed Ryan, director of wireless communications for the Department of Natural Resources, said an AT&T tower came down as part of an agreement that allowed the state to replace a communications tower on Lambs Knoll near the border of Washington and Frederick counties.

Dobson Communications Corp., which is affiliated with Cellular One, leased the tower from AT&T, which had a lease agreement with the state, Ryan said.

The state is negotiating with Dobson to allow the company to use the new tower temporarily, Ryan said. The Federal Communications Commission's ruling to take down the tower was issued in January 2004.

"So they had just short of three years to find a new home for their equipment. Which we expected they would do," Ryan said.

Davis did not respond to messages seeking further comment about the situation. His e-mail does not address how many customers were affected by the problem or whether customers experiencing service problems will be issued credits.

"We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused our customers and hope to have this issue resolved quickly," the e-mail sent Jan. 17 states.

Jean Lipphard, director of land and property management for the Department of Natural Resources, said the state ordinarily does not let private companies use its towers, which serve agencies such as the police and Civil Air Patrol.

"We've been after them to be off their tower and to remove their tower," Lipphard said of Dobson.

An agreement to allow Dobson to use the tower temporarily was awaiting approval, Lipphard said last week. "They're paying full boat for, you know, their use of the tower," she said.

Other than a bill, "for service I don't have," Robinson said last week that he has gotten no written communication about the problem from the company. He said he called the company's customer service representatives and stopped in at the store on Dual Highway to find out what was going on.

He said he paid the bill, though it seemed unfair.

"Well, I don't think I should be paying for this service when I'm not getting it," Robinson said.

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