TELLER COUNTY — There's a growing concern about poor service for Verizon customers in Woodland Park. Some residents are saying they won't even be able to call 911 if there's an emergency.
Neighbors told News5 they began noticing a decline in service about six months ago, but the past few weeks, it's gotten much worse. Now, they worry it's becoming a public safety and health issue.
“It's to the point where service completely drops out. We're completely blacked out from Friday to Sunday evening,” said Rhonda Nelson, a Woodland Park resident. “If something happened to me or my husband, we wouldn't be able to call anyone, it would strictly be in our own hands.”
Nelson is also a business owner who works from home.
“It's a much bigger concern, because I can't work from home if the internet is dropping out or completely goes out,” said Nelson.
In the past few weeks, she and many others voiced their concerns to teller County Commissioner Erik Stone. Not only is the service poor for cell phones, but it’s also poor for internet.
“All of us as commissioners view this as a life, health safety issue. Somebody tries to call 911 and they cannot connect a call, which I have heard reports of that from our residents,” said Stone.
Stone says he learned it's also impacting first responders and critical service providers, like the Teller County Sheriff’s Office and Woodland Park Police Department, the NE Teller County Fire Department and Ute Pass Regional Ambulance District, Teller County Public Health, DHS, and the Teller Senior Coalition.
Many, if not all of them, use Verizon.
“All of them said that it was interfering with their ability to provide services to the people in woodland park,” said Stone. “For child welfare cases and adult welfare cases, there was a delay in them getting their referrals. Volunteer firefighters and volunteer EMS, they are getting 15 to 30 minute delays at times. If our ambulance and our community paramedics can't connect to a telehealth call when they're out responding to a call in the community, that's a problem.”
Stone says it's a capacity issue, especially in the summer months during the weekend.
“More often than not from Friday through Sunday night, you would not have access to data. If you wanted to check your email, go on to any app on your phone that uses data, it would sit there and spin,” said Stone.
In a statement from a Verizon spokesperson, they said: “To improve service, we are adding more network equipment to an existing cell site servicing customers. We are also actively working with woodland park to secure a location to erect a new tower for customers."
Stone says Verizon has also been responsive to their concerns as a community.
“They did take our issues and they elevated and referred that to a crisis response team. In the short term, what we'd like to see is for them to move mobile cell towers into the area to increase the capacity like they would for a wildfire,” said Stone.
Verizon said as soon as they've identified a location to put up a new tower for customers, they will work to bring that site into service.
News5 also submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the FCC to see how many complaints there have been from the community.
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