NBC Montana: Tester pens letter to Verizon over cell service issues in Montana

by Maritsa Georgiou

NBC Montana first reported earlier this month about building frustrations in places like Whitefish, Bigfork, Missoula and Bozeman, where people are having trouble making calls, sending text messages and getting a clear signal.

We experienced it ourselves in Bigfork, Whitefish and Woods Bay over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, reminiscent of a packed concert that limits your ability to make a call or send a message despite showing bars of service on your phone.

A spokesperson for Verizon told NBC Montana, “This year more than ever before, people are looking to get out and travel, and the National Parks Service is expecting this to be their busiest season on record. While our network is engineered to handle voice and data traffic well above normal peak times, the network traffic seen here recently has been unprecedented. This has, at times, led to congestion, which has impacted network performance for some customers.

Sen. Jon Tester’s team took notice of our reporting, prompting the senator to write Verizon’s executive vice president, Kyle Malady, asking for a fix.

“Cellphone service is especially important this year as Montana grapples with a historic drought and a devastating fire season that has already burned tens of thousands of acres and put countless lives at risk. When Montanans are trying to coordinate an effective response to a fire, there can be no margin of error in their phone coverage.”

The letter addresses known challenges with the large influx of tourists in Montana combined with the rollout of 5G coverage.

Tester went on to say, “If there is not an immediate, permanent fix to meet rising demand this summer, I ask that you consider options such as deploying mobile cell sites to ensure Montanans remain connected while a permanent fix comes together.”

At last check, Tester’s office had not heard back from Verizon.

NBC Montana also reached out to Sen. Steve Daines’ office about the service disruptions Tuesday. A spokesperson said they are looking into it.