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Senator Chuck Schumer is taking wireless network companies to task for poor service in areas of Long Island. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Frustrating dropped calls, undelivered text messages and slow loading web pages may soon be a thing of the past on Long Island if one U.S. Senator has anything to say about it.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) submitted a list to wireless carriers of more than 200 ‘dead zones’ for cellular service on Long Island Aug. 25. The list was accumulated by Long Island residents identifying areas where frequent lapses in service occur to Schumer’s website over the course of several months. North Country Road in Port Jefferson and Setauket, Main Street in Northport, Route 25 in Smithtown, Shore Road in Mount Sinai and Hawkins Avenue in Stony Brook were among the North Shore locations residents pegged for spotty service according to a press release from Schumer’s office.

Infographic by TBR News Media
Infographic by TBR News Media

“When it comes to cell service on Long Island, these dead zones are proof carriers need to —quite frankly— raise the bar,” Schumer said in a statement. “A heavily populated region like Long Island shouldn’t be home to over 200 dead zones. Just a stone’s throw away from New York City and home to several universities, thousands of businesses and more, Long Island’s cell phone coverage must remain uninterrupted. Now that Long Islanders have submitted critical dead zones locations to my office, our wireless carries must make sure they are fixed. I will share these locations to carriers and am urging them to come up with a solution that meets the needs of both Nassau and Suffolk residents.”

Spokespeople from wireless carriers T-Mobile and AT&T did not respond to requests for comment regarding Schumer’s list. Andrew Testa, a public relations manager for Verizon Wireless’ northeast market, deferred questions regarding the Senator’s list of dead zones to international nonprofit CTIA — The Wireless Association, who has represented the wireless communications industry since 1984. CTIA spokeswoman Amy Storey declined to comment on behalf of any of their members, which include Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint.

One company addressed Schumer’s concerns.

“Sprint is committed to making sure Sprint customers have a great experience on our network and we’re investing to improve our coverage and reliability on Long Island,” company spokeswoman Adrienne Norton said in an email Aug. 26. “We share Senator Schumer’s goal of better service for Sprint customers and look forward to working with him to enact legislation that will reduce barriers to network deployment.”

Norton added that more Sprint cell sites, or towers should be expected on Long Island in the next nine months, which should improve service.

Schumer said lapses in cellphone coverage could create dangerous situations if GPS technology fails, and could deter business owners from setting up shop or tourists from visiting Long Island if problems persist. He called on wireless companies to come up with solutions to alleviate the issues.

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The cell tower located on the property of Smithtown Landing Country Club will be increasing 50 feet to improve service. Stock photo

Can you hear me now?

A cell phone tower in the heart of Smithtown will be growing 50 feet taller, thanks to a unanimous vote by the town board last month that should improve service for AT&T and Verizon customers throughout the town — especially in times of emergency, officials said. The tower, owned by Site Tech Wireless LLC, was given the go-ahead to increase its height from 75 feet to 125 feet where it currently stands at the Smithtown Landing Country Club.

“The primary purpose of the extension is public safety,” said Bailey Larkin, the attorney representing Site Tech. “The town currently maintains two whip antenna on top of the existing 75-foot site. The pole, these two whip antennas, will be on the top of the extension at 125 feet.”

The 50 feet, he said, would make for better service in tough-to-reach areas of town like the area surrounding Nissequogue River in Kings Park.

Michael Lynch, a state-certified real estate appraiser based out of Huntington, told the town board at a public hearing back in 2013 that he did not anticipate the extra 50 feet would affect the surrounding area financially or environmentally, within a quarter-acre radius of the tower.

The unanimous decision came at the board’s June 2 meeting after the town ruled the project would have no negative impacts on the greater Smithtown community. Under the plan, AT&T and Verizon would both be increasing their heights on the pole or replacing their equipment altogether to provide better service. Larkin said both carriers had been experiencing service issues over the past several years, ultimately making it difficult to be effective for groups that rely heavily on it, like emergency responders.

The town had initially built the tower at 75 feet in 2010 without a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, resulting in a $750 fine Site Tech had to pay as a violation.

The applicant said a taller tower could potentially save a few steps in the greater process of rerouting calls to other area cell towers whenever the Smithtown tower falls short. Currently, emergency calls in the area run the risk of being rerouted to Connecticut and then routed again to Suffolk County’s emergency responder system in order to bypass the Smithtown tower’s shortcomings.

The application will now go before the Smithtown Board of Site Plan Review for approval.