Can you hear me now?
Richard Bilger is fed up with his cellular service.
Three years after moving to Wilsonville, Bilger says that he was excited to move to the area because of its urban location, sure that his cellular service would be stellar. As a 28-year Verizon customer, he knew that the company boasted one of the nation's most connected networks. But upon entering his new home, he was shocked to discover how poor his cellular connection is.
"We moved here from northern Minnesota from a small town with less than 1,000 people," Bilger says. "We work from out of our house and we rely on cell phones and good cell coverage. We thought that we had suboptimal cell coverage there, but I'm telling you, our coverage was better there than it is here in Wilsonville."
In a city that prides itself on maintaining a high standard of livability and being competitive with its neighbors, some Wilsonville residents report archaically slow and spotty cellular service throughout town. Talk, text and data all fall victim to the whimpy connection. Some neighbors have looked to City Hall with frustration, but according to Wilsonville Informations Systems Manager Andy Stone, the City doesn't get involved in cellular service for the public because each provider is responsible for their own network.
Bilger reached out to Verizon looking for answers and was told that the company would send a technician out to the area to check the signal. A month later, Bilger says he was never updated on the result of the technician's investigation, so he called back only to be told that nothing had been done to fix the issue.
"(He said,) 'We sent a technician out there and he determined that you are in a low-quality area but that it works," Bilger says. "I don't remember the exact words that they used, but they basically acknowledged that it's not a good quality area."
Bilger says a Verizon representative told him to buy an extender for $90 to improve the call quality in his home. With the addition of the extender, he says that things have improved within his house but that the extender's range is limited to 500 feet.
"But here's the problem," he says. "If you're anywhere within the Wilsonville area and sit down for lunch someplace and try to look something up on the internet — or try to do anything except look at your text messages — it stinks. My wife and I have this saying, 'Oh, we're still in Wilsonville!' meaning, if we're in town, our service stinks."
In July, Bilger was frustrated and thought that, surely, he couldn't be the only one of his neighbors experiencing these problems. Talking to members of the community website Nextdoor, he asked his neighbors if his was a unique experience. The response he received was nearly instantaneous.
"Last week I spoke with Verizon and was escalated to tech support. I was told if my service is not adequate, and that's putting it mildly, Verizon will let me out of my contract," Janet Ferguson of Charbonneau wrote Aug. 21 in response to Bilger's thread. "Verizon verified how bad my coverage is, in my location, by setting up a trouble ticket and researching it at their end. They know Wilsonville has poor coverage."
Bilger's Nextdoor thread has generated 71 comments as of Oct. 12, several of which state that T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T customers also feel the connection is poor. Yet John Votava, a Sprint public relations and community affairs representative, said that Sprint is performing at record levels in Wilsonville. The other large carriers had similar responses. T-Mobile did not comment.
"Without a specific location and and details about the customers' experience, it is difficult for us to determine the issue," Heidi Flato, Verizon's external communications Pacific Market representative, said in an email. "We do have plans to improve coverage and add network capacity in the Wilsonville area, with the addition of macro cell sites, small cells and other enhancements."
However, of the complaints generated, AT&T stood above the crowd in terms of happy customers. Several commenters reported that only several places throughout town suffered from patchy connections with the carrier. Villebois residents, in particular, reported having good coverage and signal strength.
"We are always looking at ways to improve service for our customers, in fact we've invested nearly $275 million in our Oregon wireless and wired networks in the past three years," Katie Spencer, AT&T lead media relations manager for the Northwest region, wrote in an email. "In Wilsonville, we built a new cell site that launched in late 2015 on the east side of town and we have added capacity to our other sites in the area."
Yet, even the as the reported most reliable service in town, users reported that AT&T falters around Town Center and Wilsonville High School.
"I actually have both Verizon and At&T (work phone) and both get crappy service out here," Emily Jensen of central Wilsonville wrote Aug. 28. "On Verizon I only get 1 or 2 bars at the best of times. It's very frustrating."
Bilger and other residents still want more concrete answers about their coverage and when, if ever, it's going to improve.
"My contract is coming up — as are all of my neighbors' contracts," Bilger said. "Somebody's got to investigate this, make it public. Maybe if we can put some pressure on them maybe they'll say, 'Well, maybe we need another tower or two in that little region.' Because we can literally drive to Tigard, Tualatin or Newberg and I get better service.
"The only way that these carriers are going to change is if we get louder... We need to protest to our carriers as loud as we can, because they have to do something."