Ridgebury tower still waiting for Verizon

by Peter Yankowski

Press Staff

Ridgefield residents who rely on Verizon may have to wait a while longer for service around Ridgefield High School.

Despite petitions online — and a Verizon Customer Service number published in The Press last year, on which a Verizon representative claimed residents could call to pressure the company to improve service — Verizon service in the north end of town has retained its reputation as a “blackout zone.”

One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Press the coverage was so bad she had asked to log into Ridgefield High School’s wifi to patch a call through.

“Verizon is looking for ways to improve and expand our network coverage in ways that fit our business model,” said Verizon representative David Weissman in an email Monday, Aug. 7. “We value the feedback from our customers and will continue to explore ways we can improve the network experience in the community.”

Several follow-up questions went unresponded.

Rather than constructing their own cellular towers, most major carriers in the country tend to lease space on towers built by outside companies, which allows one tower to serve multiple carriers. But in the case of the Ridgebury cell tower, there is no guarantee that all the major carriers will lease space on a newly-built tower.

Dick Aarons, the town’s emergency management director, said that he had heard of no plans to add Verizon to the Ridgebury tower.

He said that the town’s emergency equipment on the tower remains operational.

“Like any cell call, the user needs ‘bars’,” Aarons said. “No ‘bars,’ no contact.  If they do have bars and dial 911, a call from Ridgebury may be answered by Ridgefield [police] — or the New York State Police, wherever the cell system detects the strongest signal … any police agency that receives the call would forward it to Ridgefield police dispatch.”

First Selectman Rudy Marconi was a bit more forward.

“We need to get Verizon on that tower,” he said. “The Office of the First Selectman is working with Homeland Towers to come up with a solution.”

Marconi made construction of the new tower a priority several years ago, even proposing the town buy the land needed for a company to built a cell tower. The project was eventually undertaken by Danbury-based Homeland Towers.

The Press reached out to Homeland Towers for comment on Verizon’s slow response to leasing space at the site, but received no response at Press time.

One resident, who was part of a change.org petition last summer to push Verizon to lease space on the tower, said she thinks “everyone has basically given up” on the issue.