Consumer complaints about coverage, dead zones, static, dropped calls are so familiar, the carriers have created advertising campaigns poking fun at poor call quality. “Dead zone” reporting web sites have cropped up, and even the Mayor of New York made headlines by encouraging citizens to call in to report dead zones in the city via “311”.
Did you know that federal regulators no longer require cell phone companies to provide coverage maps?
The coverage maps you might see when shopping for service are rough estimations from the cell phone company, and may include areas where no coverage is available at all! For example, one company’s map includes the following disclaimer:
This map predicts and approximates our wireless coverage area outdoors, which may vary from market to market. It may include locations with limited or no coverage. Our maps do not guarantee service availability. Even within a coverage area, there are several factors, including but not limited to: network changes, traffic volume, service outages, technical limitations, signal strength, your equipment, terrain, structures, weather and other conditions that may interfere with actual service, quality and availability, including the ability to make, receive and maintain calls.
Did you know that cell phone companies have detailed network information, but they don’t share it with the public?
A recent case investigating consumer complaints about cell phone service in California revealed that cell phone companies know extensive, detailed information about their networks, such as maps predicting coverage, and reports on capacity and the frequency of dropped calls.
Yet customers have no means to get accurate, detailed information about service.
Demand Better Information About Cell Phone Call Quality!
- Cell phone companies should provide more detailed and accurate maps–they have the information, but they don’t share it.
- Consumers should get a longer “cell phone test drive” period–at least 30 days or through the first bill. A shorter time is insufficient to determine if a carrier’s coverage is adequate — and whether the first bill with any hidden charges — before committing to a long-term contract.
- The Federal Communications Commission should standardize its complaint reporting so that consumers can see which cell phone companies are generating more complaints about service quality, billing, marketing, etc.
When consumers are armed with more and better information they can demand better service quality and more competitive choices in the cell phone market.