Cell service in El Jebel may improve
“Can you hear me now?” might be music to the ears of midvalley cell phone users this fall.Verizon Wireless is in the process of replacing its one and only tower in the midvalley with three towers or antennas. The change has the potential to improve service in El Jebel, a notorious black hole in Verizon’s cell service.Verizon Wireless’ advertisements feature a guy asking, “Can you hear me now? Good.” The company boasts about its superior coverage.The company’s current tower is located in the Basalt State Wildlife Area. “We’ve been ordered off the site by Sept. 30,” said Verizon Wireless spokesman Bob Kelley.One new tower has already been approved on lower Basalt Mountain, off Cedar Drive, right above town. A second application is awaiting review by Eagle County authorities for an antenna on the El JeBowl building, the bowling alley in El Jebel.Verizon Wireless tried and failed to get another tower approved on private property in Wingo Junction, between Basalt and Old Snowmass, Kelley said. The Pitkin County Planning and Zoning Commission turned down the application.Verizon hopes to receive permission to use a temporary antenna, better known as a Cell On Wheels or COW, so that a high level of service can be maintained for customers, Kelley said. An application for a permanent facility will be resubmitted to Pitkin County.Kelley was reluctant to promise better service. He said the tower on the wildlife preserve had the advantage of being located high on the slope. That helped establish the line of sight necessary for cellular service.But mountains raise hell with cell service. The Verizon Wireless signal in El Jebel is weak at best. Officials with the Basalt Fire Department, headquartered in El Jebel, have been hindered by spotty service. Homeowners in Sopris Village have to walk outside their homes for a passable signal.Kelley said establishing a site in Wingo Junction is important because of the integration necessary among towers, antennas and repeaters. Removing a link is like losing a piece to a puzzle, he said.The state wildlife division is purging all uses from the wildlife area that aren’t related to wildlife. Mountain bikers were booted off trails in the vast area in the late 1990s.
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