Tahoe Prosperity Center column: Cell phone coverage in Lake Tahoe stinks!
August 14, 2017
Trying to use your cell phone in the summer in Lake Tahoe is like washing your car in the winter — an exercise in futility. Is your phone even needed? Are you able to send texts? How about use maps or get directions on your phone? Email? Making calls? Does it seem much worse than previous years? I'm guessing that 99 percent of you reading this right now are saying to yourself, "Yes! It stinks. My phone has become almost useless this summer." Feel free to add in your favorite curse words to really bring the point home. I'm 100 percent with you.
Fortunately, the Tahoe Prosperity Center's Connected Tahoe project is addressing these problems. But we need your help! There are six government jurisdictions around the lake and every one of them has a different system for permitting new communication towers, small cell sites and temporary COWs (cellular on wheels). Every single one of these technology options is needed. While the Tahoe Basin only has 54,000 residents, we have millions of visitors. What happens when all the visitors are here (summer visitation is now higher than winter visitation) and everyone has one to three devices that all need some sort of cell or internet capacity? The entire system gets bogged down and it does not matter who your carrier is as it is all impacted.
You can help by calling your carrier and letting them know you want better service. We also encourage you to call your local elected officials and city or county management to ask what they are doing to bring in new service. Every one of the cell phone companies and internet service providers the Tahoe Prosperity Center works with has said they want to expand in Tahoe. But every one of them is running into one road block or another. This not only hurts moms like me who can't text her son to confirm a location for pickup, but also business owners who rely on cell phone coverage to run their business. And being in the dark ages when it comes to high-speed internet and cell phone capacity puts Tahoe at a severe disadvantage for community and economic development. But, most importantly, if we have a fire or other emergency, not being able to reach family and friends could be tragic — especially as many residents now have cell phones instead of land lines. We should be encouraging new technology in Tahoe for all of these reasons, but especially public safety.
Technology has greatly improved and small cell sites are easily hidden within existing telephone poles and other utility structures and can add capacity quickly and easily. The larger sites are being designed to fit within existing height and scenic restrictions. But, to stay competitive in the 21st Century, we can't be left behind the digital divide. If you have poor to non-existent cell phone service or internet connection, please call your provider to complain and ask that they work on expanding service in the Tahoe Basin. The more of us they hear from the better! If you have time, also add a call into your local elected officials. Our goal is gigabyte level broadband and 5G or higher cell capacity — please help by reaching out to your provider and elected officials.
Here is who to contact if your cell service is poor:
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Here is who to contact if your internet service is poor:
And please take a few minutes to complete our speed test and satisfaction survey online at: http://tahoeprosperity.org/connected-tahoe/
We'll keep pushing for expanded service and capacity in our region. Tahoe's residents and businesses deserve better!
Heidi Hill Drum is the CEO of the Tahoe Prosperity Center, a Tahoe Basin-wide organization dedicated to uniting Tahoe's communities to strengthen regional prosperity. She has expertise in collaborative governance and is a 21-year resident. Heidi and her husband John are happily raising their two boys in Lake Tahoe.
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