Signal improves for cell phone users in Crested Butte South

Customers urged to check their contract

Crested Butte South residents are now able to do something they couldn’t just a few weeks ago—talk on their cellular phones while at home.
Cellular phone service for many users in the subdivision improved dramatically this month after a cell tower located on the Niccoli Ranch near Crested Butte South was refurbished by its new owner, Castle Rock, Colo.-based Commnet Wireless.

 

 

Mark Hansen, vice-president for Commnet, says his company recently purchased the tower from San Isabel Telephone, along with four other rural towers. “One of those was the Cement Creek tower,” he says. The company upgraded the tower to be compatible with AT&T, Verizon Wireless and other cellular phone carriers and it charges the big carriers each time a customer uses its towers.
Commnet Wireless also turned on new towers at the Elk Creek Marina on Blue Mesa, as well as in Lake City and Creede. “We go into very rural, small-type settings,” Hansen says and try to improve service in areas overlooked by the big carriers.
While the signal is much improved, Hansen warns that phones that connect to Commnet’s tower may be charged roaming fees, which can add up if they’re not part of a customer’s contract. “The big deal to mention is that they’re now having service, but if they don’t have roaming, they might get a big bill,” he says.
Hansen also notes that service may still be spotty for some cellular phone users. One problem, he says, is that cellular phones are designed to pick up their home carrier’s tower first, and roaming towers second. Even if a phone can only pick up a slight signal, it will go to its home tower.
The Crested Butte South Property Owners Association has been attempting to improve cell phone coverage for the development, which is home to approximately 1,500 residents, for several years. Association manager Chris Behan says he tried in 2005 to get service improved, to no avail. Now he says, “I have more bars and my phone’s ringing in my office—and it’s great.”
The trip to Gunnison still won’t happen with continuous coverage on a cellular phone. Hansen says his company will not likely install enough towers to allow a complete coverage during a trip from Crested Butte to Gunnison. However, Hansen says his company expects to turn on a new tower north of Gunnison to improve service in the canyon by the end of the month. In addition, there are plans for another new tower to improve service in Almont within the next 12 to 18 months. “We have a site on the list for the Almont area,” he said. “I think it will help a lot of people.”
Hansen says if other subdivisions in Gunnison County are interested in improving their service, they can log onto www.commnetwireless.com for more information. “We’ll investigate and see if we can provide service,” he says.
While Commnet has improved coverage, AT&T says it’s doing its part to step up coverage in the Crested Butte area. Brooke Burgess, spokesperson for AT&T, says the company recently installed a mounted amplifier, which improves signal strength and allows more calls. Burgess says, “We’re always hoping to improve our signal.”

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