A City Without a Signal: How Downtown Santa Fe Fell Behind the Times

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Imagine being in any downtown area in the USA and not having cell phone coverage. Crazy thought, right? Well, that’s the experience residents and business owners have in downtown Santa Fe. According to resident and co-owner of a social media company, Caitlin Jenkins, who has Verizon Wireless service, “Often it’s unusable. Especially in the downtown area and in the rail yard, it’s unbearable.”

And it’s not just Jenkins whose business is negatively impacted by lack of coverage. The entire downtown has seen a dip in service, especially Verizon customers, reported The New Mexican. The below-average coverage is affecting area business and city officials when it comes to conducting phone calls or sending emails to clients. Emergency services such as the fire department, have complained about inconsistent coverage as well.

According to a study conducted by The New Mexican, of all carriers, Verizon’s coverage is typically the strongest in the downtown, even though it’s classified as poor, but stronger in residential areas; AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint have poor signals all around.

Jeannine M. Brew, a spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless in Dallas noted, “Verizon has been working diligently to add new sites and technologies which will provide more capacity and improve coverage in downtown Santa Fe. This process includes working with building owners, property managers and government entities, all of whom are interested in ensuring the best experience for Santa Fe residents. We’re working as quickly as the process will allow.”

So, what’s causing the lack of service? There are two contributing factors; lack of new infrastructure by carriers and protests by residents regarding cancer-causing and aesthetic concerns when it comes to new infrastructure. Although carriers like AT&T have proposed infrastructure – like a 64-foot tower project – they have been rejected by the city’s Historic Districts Review Board.

According to City Councilor Joseph Maestas, if residents want to keep up with business demands, they must accept that cell phone data is a necessity, and technology is needed to support it. “We’re a data-driven society,” he said, “and we need to evolve with that demand.”

August 22, 2017                 

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