Lawmakers Press Vt. Public Service Department For Info On Spotty CoverageCo Cell Service

May 25, 2018

Vermonters with cell phone service provided by CoverageCo continue to have spotty service. Now, a group of Vermont lawmakers is asking the Department of Public Service for more details on how the state’s going to deal with the ongoing problems.

CoverageCo told the state back in March that its cell phone service was losing money, and the state’s been waiting for more details about the company’s future.

More from VPR — Cell Coverage Threatened In 26 Towns, As Provider Faces Financial Trouble [March 22]

But in two months, nothing has gotten better. So earlier this week, a group of legislators from the districts with affected customers sent a letter to the Vermont Department of Public Service commissioner.

Seven House lawmakers signed on to the letter:

  • Rep. Laura Sibilia
  • Rep. John Gannon
  • Rep. Benjamin Jickling
  • Rep. Sandy Haas
  • Rep. Chip Conquest
  • Rep. Charlie Kimbell
  • Rep. Peter Conlon

Click here to read the lawmakers' letter.

"So I think we’re looking for some movement," said Sibilia, who represents the Windham-Bennington district. "We really need to get on to the next thing. So if there’s a plan, it’s time to see the plan."

CoverageCo owes a lot money to the various vendors that keep the service going, like the electric utilities, the backhaul services and the cell phone companies that use the antennas.

So, Sibilia said, it seems like pockets of communities around the state are losing their service as those vendors give up on thinking CoverageCo will pay them.

In their letter, the lawmakers say it’s time to cut its losses with CoverageCo and try to figure out how to get the cell service back.

“If the department sees something going on with CoverageCo that gives them hope that they’re going to be able to provide services that they thus far have not been able to reliably provide, we’d like to see that plan, ASAP, because we have communities that are reliant on it," Sibilia said.

But Clay Purvis, the director of the telecommunications and connectivity division of the Department of Public Service, said CoverageCo is trying to improve its network.

Purvis said the state is also trying to keep track of the service, and the department is not ready to give up on them and move on.

“It is definitely a situation that has us concerned," Purvis said. "Things in the short term haven’t improved, however there are some positive areas. We don’t have any specific information yet about all of the creditors and all of the vendors that help make the sites run. But we do know that this firm is working to try to improve network operations."

Purvis said the state is hoping to get an update soon on both the system and about the company’s financial situation.

If it comes to it, Purvis said the state can terminate its agreement with CoverageCo and put out a request for proposal (RFP) for another company to take over the system.

Correction 3:54 p.m. The lawmakers' letter is dated May 22. This post was updated to reflect the letter as being from this week, not last week.