Tag Archives: Verizon

Bloch That Cell Tower!

Stephen Bloch and his wife moved to Stonybrook Road in 2002. He’s a partner in a Westport venture capital firm. In an earlier career, he was a practicing physician.

The Blochs have spotty cell service at home. There’s a dead zone in the area, not far from Earthplace.

Verizon wants to enhance coverage. You’d figure the Blochs would be happy.

They are anything but.

The company plans to put a mini-cell tower on a utility pole in the couple’s front yard, 60 yards from their home. Verizon says that’s the best place for it.

The Blochs — and their neighbors — disagree.

Vehemently.

The Blochs’ home (left), and the utility pole (right) where Verizon hopes to install a mini-cell tower.

Bloch — who, you will recall, has a medical degree — is concerned about possible biological effects of radio frequency waves emitted by the mini-tower.

And — just as disturbing — Bloch says that Verizon refuses to share any technical details about performance and safety of the devices.

“There’s no information about shielding, direction of the beam – nothing.”

“We’ve gotten no specs” from the company, he adds. “So we can’t even tell whether it’s compliant” with existing laws and regulations.

Bloch notes that current rules were written for large cell towers — not these new mini ones.

“Whenever I ask, all they say is, ‘We follow FCC regulations,'” Bloch says. “I’ve asked them to demonstrate the need for these. I’ve never gotten any answers.”

Bloch says there was “a big uproar” in Palo Alto when Verizon proposed a similar mini-tower. Ultimately, he says, the utility got what it wanted.

A typical mini-cell tower.

“They want to do this here by fiat,” says Bloch. They hide behind legal precedent, and a weak appeals process.”

The appeals process requires them to spend a day at Public Utilities Regulatory Agency headquarters in New Britain. They’re slated to meet December 15. Verizon must appear that day too.

But, Bloch says exasperatedly, “Just getting that appointment was incredibly difficult.”

He says there is only one other similar mini-cell tower in Westport: in front of Ned Dimes Marina at Compo Beach. That’s much further away from any homes than Verizon’s proposed Stonybrook site.

First selectman Jim Marpe and town attorney Ira Bloom have written letters supporting the Blochs, and helped propose alternative pole locations either on public land or further away from houses. But, Bloch says, “Verizon will not consider it.”

He doesn’t think Verizon will listen on December 15 either. But, he notes, “PURA has to consider public comment.”

He doesn’t expect Westporters to flock to New Britain to support him and his wife, in their battle against a large utility company.

But, he says, “we welcome public comment on ‘06880.’”

 

Who Shall Provide?

Cablevision has been my internet provider since the day they came to Westport.  In fact, I remember watching a demo of something called a “cable modem” on the 2nd floor of Klein’s department store (!).  I realized how much better it was than a dial-up modem (!!), and became one of their 1st dozen or so customers here.

I’d already had Cablevision TV, since the early ’80s.  I still remember the thrill I got watching news that was “as local as local gets,” and realizing there was a whole universe of channels beyond 13.

Which doesn’t stop Cablevision from mailing me — every 2 or 3 days — urging pressuring me to upgrade, consolidate and/or bundle all my communication needs together.

Despite recent “06880” posts to the contrary, the US Postal Service is in no danger of going away.  Cablevision keeps them hopping.

AT&T helps too.

They’ve been my phone provider ever since I’ve had a phone.  Now I’m an iPhone customer too.  I’m not one of the millions of Americans who complains.  I find AT&T service perfectly fine adequate.

But they too mail me with stalker-ish frequency.  AT&T also demands all my internet, TV and phone business.

I don’t plan to change internet providers — or drop my landline — for one fossil-sounding, but important, reason:  Too many people know my email address and phone number.  Both are out there in Rolodexes, contact lists and cyberspace — and on dozens, if not hundreds, of websites — and have been for decades.  For someone who is self-employed — and depends on people finding him me for work — changing them is too daunting a task.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Faithful “06880” reader Andy Yemma has a similar story — with a different ending.

He says:

I’ve been a customer of both AT&T and Cablevision since we moved to Westport nearly 2 decades ago (I think it was actually SNET before it was SBC before it was AT&T).  Back in the ’90s it was simply AOL for email and SNET for phone calls.

I remember installing my first high-speed cable modem, purchased at “Nobody Beats the Wiz” (remember that?) on New Year’s Eve 1999, showing my faith in my notion that Y2K would be no big deal.

In recent years the technology of television (digital and hi-def), internet (WiFi and cellular) and phone (VOIP and cellular) have evolved with increasing speed.

And, by the way, who uses voicemail anymore?  A couple of weeks ago my AT&T voicemail service quit working.  After several unfruitful calls to AT&T, I discovered that they had “upgraded” my voicemail box and I needed to start calling another number.  This of course led the AT&T representative to try to sell me on their bundled package of phone/internet/TV services, which she promised would save me a bundle over Cablevision.

Suddenly I realized that the monopolies of the phone and cable companies had gone kaput.  Now there’s competition for my business from Cablevision, AT&T and Verizon — all offering bundled packages.  The offers are tiered, depending upon the level of service and features and internet speed.

They’re very complicated, and almost impossible from my POV to compare side-by-side.   All of the competitors promise the best deal, and diss the competition.

I thought perhaps Dan’s loyal commentators might offer views on this — what’s been your experience with the various providers?  Should I take the plunge and switch providers — and if so to which one?  A kilobyte for your thoughts?

“06880 readers”:  Help Andy decide.

Or confuse him even more than he is now.

Take Back The Beep

David Pogue

David Pogue

David Pogue is a genius.

The New York Times technology columnist, “Missing Manual” publisher, Emmy-winning CBS correspondent and frequent NPR guest is a Westporter.  I’m proud to call him a friend.

I’m particularly excited about his latest crusade, announced today in his weekly (free) email column:  a nationwide effort to get US cellphone carriers to change the obnoxious, minutes-eating “instructions” we hear many times a day.

You know the ones:  “Record your message after the tone.  To send a numeric page, press 5.  When you are finished recording, hang up, or for delivery options, press pound.”

Has anyone, anywhere, ever sent a “numeric page”?  Considered other “delivery options”?  Or thought about holding on forever, unaware that it is possible simply to hang up?

Sounds humorous.  But those “instructions” are deadly serious.  We pay for them.  Cell executives have told David that they exist primarily to use up airtime.  He figured that if the 70 million customers of just 1 carrier — Verizon — leave or check messages twice a day, the company could rake in $620 million a year.

David wants to send a message right back.  He writes:

We’re going to descend, en masse, on our carriers.  Send them a complaint, politely but firmly.  Together, we’ll send them a LOT of complaints.

If enough of us make our unhappiness known, I’ll bet they’ll change.

I’ve told each of the four major carriers that they’ll be hearing from us.  They’ve told us where to send the messages:

* Verizon: Post a complaint here: http://bit.ly/FJncH

* AT&T: Send e-mail to Mark Siegel, executive director of media relations: MS8460@att.com

* Sprint: Post a complaint here: http://bit.ly/9CmrZ

* T-Mobile: Post a complaint here: http://bit.ly/2rKy0u

Three of the four carriers are just directing us to their general Web forums.  Smells like a cop-out, I know.  (As for AT&T:  Props to the guy for letting me publish his e-mail address!  Hope he knows what he’s in for!)

Yet all four carriers promise that they’ll read and consider our posts.  And we have two things going for us.

First, I have a feeling that the volume of complaints will be too big for them to ignore.  To that end, I hope you’ll pass these instructions along, blog them, Twitter them, and spread the word.  (Gizmodo, Consumerist and others have agreed to help out.)

And I hope you’ll take the time to complain yourself.  Do it now, before you forget.

Thanks, David, for trying to help save Americans millions of hours — and dollars.  I’ll contact all 4 carriers right now.

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