MANCOS – At wits’ end with deteriorating Verizon cellphone service in her home 5 miles north of Mancos, Maria Tuxhorn sought help from The Journal to inquire why reception went south about three months ago.
“Service was just getting worse and worse,” she said. “I never got stellar service, but I used to get two bars, maybe three, on a good day, and I was able to make calls. Then I was down to one bar if I was lucky. Usually, I couldn’t even get that.”
Tuxhorn was reduced to driving into Mancos for telephone calls and text messages.
She purchased a Cricket cellphone for one month of service for $86.24, thinking a new carrier might help. She also was reassured by the Cricket office in Cortez that its coverage would work in the hilly terrain north of Mancos.
Unfortunately, she said, the Cricket phone performed worse than Verizon at her house, off County Road 40. And she’s still upset that Cricket offered her just a $9.40 refund when she returned it as unusable three hours later.
Tuxhorn thought her story would end happily after she added a booster recommended by a Verizon technician. For a few days, she resumed successful cellular calls from her house for the first time in three months.
Verizon’s public relations manager for Colorado, Heidi Flato, told The Journal that the company did not find anything that would cause service to deteriorate around Mancos. But a Verizon technician showed up at her house and spent an hour working with her on her 5-acre property. He offered advice: Try purchasing a certain type of after-market booster.
The device gave her two bars of service, enough to make calls without driving to town. But at 3 p.m. Tuesday, she began receiving a “Network Unavailable” message on her phone.
She is thankful for the technician’s help.
“I’m grateful for the fact that someone actually showed up, and he was transparent and honest. I’ve called a number of times, put in call tickets, and I couldn’t get anyone out here,” Tuxhorn said after the Verizon technician’s visit.
Tuxhorn isn’t alone among Verizon’s disappointed cellphone customers.
Dana Petersen, who lives in the Summit Lake area, said she’s been using a booster for her Verizon phone for five years, and like Tuxhorn, about three months ago, she saw a rapid deterioration in reception.
Now, she’s discovered she can make calls only if she walks up a hill near her house or stands on a picnic table outside the house.
“I do question how a corporation with such an incredible budget and is rolling in profits can’t seem to invest in infrastructure around here. That seems disappointing,” she said.
Based on the technician’s advice and guidance, Tuxhorn invested $120 in a booster on Amazon and $30 for a conduit, cement, rubber seals and a pole to install an exterior antenna and cable and an interior booster and antenna.
She saved money by installing the equipment but added that it wouldn’t be a good do-it-yourself project “if this is your first rodeo.”
She noted her neighbors, too, have lost cellphone coverage. “You know, people use equipment out here, and eventually someone’s going to get hurt and really need to make a call, and now you’re pretty much out of luck.”
Cathleen Grimes, Tuxhorn’s neighbor and a Verizon customer, said she used to get three or four bars of service from the second floor of her house. Now, she’s lucky to get one bar, and she says she can’t make calls from home.
The technician who visited Tuxhorn said the Verizon network is overloaded in summer because of tourists and second-home summer residents. That makes sense to Tuxhorn.
She said she first noticed deteriorating cellphone coverage during the 416 Fire, when she was hobbled by knee surgery and needed to make frequent calls to doctors and pharmacists.
“There were a lot of firefighters in the area during the 416 using the network, and I think that contributed to it,” she said.
But Grimes doesn’t completely buy the story.
“I think they’re just feeding us a song and dance because they don’t want to put out money to fix it. If they’re not going to fix it, they should give us a 90% discount if our cellphones are only 10% of what we had,” she said.
Now, Tuxhorn, facing the return of the dreaded “Network Unavailable” message, is wondering what comes next.