Thursday May 16, 2013

PUTNEY -- Even though she has not had cell phone service for almost a month, Libby McCawley was still checking her phone every morning to see if it worked.

AT&T’s roaming agreement with another provider expired and service to its customers disappeared on April 19. But on Wednesday morning, when McCawley turned on her phone she was surprised and relieved that the service had returned.

AT&T Spokesman Will Keyser said the company was able to restore service to all of the customers who lost their connection nearly a month ago.

"The issues affecting our wireless service in the Putney area have been corrected," Keyser said Wednesday. "Our customers that have been impacted will be credited for the loss in service. We apologize for the inconvenience that this has caused."

Some of the AT&T customers who lost service said the company was not being responsive when they reported the problem. Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Putney resident, got involved last week after reading a Reformer story. Shumlin said he was told that AT&T had terminated a roaming agreement with Verizon after AT&T completed work it was doing on a new tower.

Customers lost service while the new tower was coming on line.

"Our focus in Vermont is on expanding the reach and quality of our wireless network, not reducing it," said Keyser. "In the past two years we have invested more than $50 million in our Vermont network, and we expect that figure will continue to grow over the next three years."

McCawley said she was starting to look at other options for a cell company, and was told Tuesday that the service would return soon. She works at the Grammar School in Putney, which also lost service.

While the company was reluctant to help, and even told McCawley that there had been no change in service in Putney, she said the staff in the Keene, N.H., store acknowledged the problem and helped her and other customers through the disruption.

"We are all really reliant on the service," she said. "It’s eerie that it is so hard to live without it."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.