Verizon cell phone customers in Johnson Siding face outage

2013-06-26T05:00:00Z Verizon cell phone customers in Johnson Siding face outageJackson Bolstad Journal staff Rapid City Journal
June 26, 2013 5:00 am  • 

Verizon wireless customers near Johnson Siding could be without cell service for the next month. A three-year contract that allows Verizon customers to roam on AT&T towers expired Monday, shutting off service to the area.

“If I didn’t have a house phone, I wouldn’t be able to call about a house fire, or call for an ambulance,” said Ralph Johnson, a Johnson Siding resident.

Verizon spokeswoman Karen Smith said she does not know how many customers are affected or the exact area of the outage.

But she said Verizon has put up a tower along Highway 44 to the east of Hisega and on Highway 385 to the west of Johnson Siding. She said the two towers have reduced the size of the disruption area, but she is unsure by how much.

Most people in the area didn’t know anything about the service disruption, Johnson said. The disruption goes from about a mile east of Hisega to Highway 385, west of the Johnson Siding development, he said.

“Everybody in the area woke up (Monday) morning to zero cell phone service,” he said. “There were hundreds or maybe even thousands of people that were cut off without notice.”

Smith said the roaming contract with AT&T gave Verizon time to place towers in areas where it had been required to sell towers.

The area’s AT&T tower was previously owned by Alltel Wireless, a cellular service provider. Verizon originally acquired the site, but was required by the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Communication Commission to sell it because of a lack of competition. Verizon then reached an agreement with AT&T to use the tower.

Smith said that agreement expired before Verizon was able to put up its own tower in the Johnson Siding area. Many of the 105 nationwide service areas Verizon was forced to sell were in South Dakota, Smith said.

“We’ve had to replace coverage across the state of South Dakota,” Smith said. “We’ve been working diligently to replace those sites with our own sites, and in a few incidents, especially in this neighborhood, we have had a short gap without service.”

Besides the area along Highway 44, from Hisega to Johnson Siding, Smith said there is no Verizon coverage on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. She said Verizon is still in negotiations with the Oglala Sioux Tribe to allow Verizon to provide service on the reservation.

Alex Carey, a spokesman for AT&T, said in an email Tuesday that the technology Verizon uses to provide service was turned down on the AT&T towers across multiple states on Monday.

AT&T customers in the Johnson Siding area will not be impacted, Carney said. AT&T uses different technology on its tower to provide cell service to its customers, he said.

Smith said Verizon customers should contact their local Verizon store to learn about service options for the next month. She said customers can purchase a trial network extender — which is a miniature cell tower for their homes — for $249.99, according to Verizon’s website.

Verizon network technicians are out testing the area and working with customers, Smith said.

“The customers that we’ve heard from, we’re reaching out directly to them to work with them,” she said.

Contact Jackson Bolstad at 394-8419 or

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(6) Comments

  1. Mountain Sun
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    Mountain Sun - June 28, 2013 4:16 pm
    Great I'm probably stuck with my son's Verizon contract. I live in another state and have my son who lives on the Pine Ridge Reservation on my Verizon plan. I doubt Verizon will cancel his contract on my plan without penalizing me and I don't want to go to AT&T they have terrible service in the state I live in.
  2. smile84
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    smile84 - June 27, 2013 3:31 pm
    I'm in PR. I called Verizon on Monday when I saw I had no service. The lady wanted me to troubleshoot my phone, after my friend had already told me that the rep she talked to told her no service was indefinite. So I did what she asked and after we got thru, she says "oh wait it looks like we shut our tower in your area down so you will no longer be able to get service in your area and for the inconvenience we will be waiving the termination fees on your contracts." The next day I walked into AT&T, got my numbers ported over and had no issues with verizon ending my contracts. I was a bit bummed I had to leave them because I got such a great discount but cell phones are our means of communication.(no house phone)
  3. Sdlivn13
    Report Abuse
    Sdlivn13 - June 27, 2013 2:35 pm
    This happen to the Blackhawk -Piedmont area in April. I argued with Verizon for 4 weeks to one :get an answer as to what happened and two what are they going to do about it. Verizon had told me that they had lost the contract in that area and I had to get a network extender to solve my problem, I mention to them , that it was not my problem and they had to fix it. Verizion finally sent me a extender ,but I had to argue with them over a 2 week time, so much for good customer service.
  4. Fighter
    Report Abuse
    Fighter - June 26, 2013 11:23 am
    There is no Altel anymore. They got bought out by AT&T.
  5. 2springers
    Report Abuse
    2springers - June 26, 2013 8:20 am
    I am one of the people affected. This is the second time this has happened so far this year. At the end of April the same thing happened--we were without service for 10 days. The article does not mention that you can switch to Altel or AT&T and get service up there. My neighbors have Altel and have not been affected at all by this. If Verizons want to keep their customers, maybe they should give away or heavily discount their 'network extenders' for those affected.
  6. peppermint1900
    Report Abuse
    peppermint1900 - June 26, 2013 5:22 am
    "Smith said that agreement expired before Verizon was able to put up its own tower in the Johnson Siding area." Did they not have 3 years to construct a tower before the contract expired, the problem is they didn't want to spend the money it costs to guarantee that those few people affected would not lose coverage? Typical big business thinking!!
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