Local residents say they’re finding it difficult, if not impossible, to sign up for a Verizon 4G network home internet service announced late last month.
Terry Heffern and his family live near the James River, less than 10 minutes west of Nixa.
Heffern, who works in IT for a large Missouri-based company, said his neighborhood is a place where it’s pretty tough to get fast internet service.
“We’ve got truly limited options,” Heffern told the News-Leader late last week.
The network operated by Heffern’s current service provider “gets so congested in the daytime, you can’t even use it,” he said.
Don’t they have DSL or satellite options?
Yes, Heffern said, but they’re slow.
“I don’t know if you’ve used (DSL) for a while,” he said. “It’s just bad.”
Heffern said he’s even contacted an internet service provider about running a cable link directly to his house. He said he was told it would cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Heffern summed up the dilemma of many a rural resident during pandemic summer: “On the days when I’ve stayed home and covered child care, I’ve barely been able to work. I’ve taken a couple of (paid time off) days.”
One of Heffern’s co-workers, Matt Having, expressed similar concerns. Having lives five miles south of Clever, with a Billings address. He’s got three kids 10 and younger at home, and he said he also worries how to keep them up to speed with homework, as back-to-school season unfolds along with the pandemic.
So when Heffern and Having saw an announcement in late July that Verizon is launching a fast 4G home internet service in three U.S. markets deemed “rural,” including Springfield, they say they acted quickly.
“When I saw it, I thought it would be a great option,” Having said. He said he’s already a Verizon customer. His family often uses Verizon wifi hotspots at home, he said, and their connectivity is great. They just don’t offer much data before throttling kicks in.
Heffern and Having said they used a Verizon address locator to see if their homes were covered by the new product.
They weren’t, according to the website.
Having said he called Verizon customer service, which referred him back to the address locator website. He even wrote to corporate publicists, who also referred him back to the same website.
Heffern said he checked in with several co-workers living in areas around Springfield.
Nobody was able to sign up after checking multiple residential addresses.
The News-Leader tried, too. On Monday a reporter entered a dozen addresses into Verizon’s service locator, located in Springfield and surrounding communities. None of the addresses were eligible for Verizon’s new 4G home internet product, according to Verizon’s website.
A Verizon spokesperson, Kate Jay, told the News-Leader that the 4G product launch is “one with a small initial footprint that we will be expanding.”
“The initial footprint covers approximately 100,000 households across the three launch markets,” Jay said in an email last week, “and we do already have orders in Springfield in select rural locations.”
Where those orders might be located is unclear. Verizon said it doesn’t have a map of available service areas, just the link to the service locator.
Having said he’s “a little disappointed.”
“Beyond a little,” he added. “If you’re going to say you’re going to have a service, have a service. I get it, you can’t have 150 people on a single (mobile phone) tower, because that’s going to cause congestion. But still.”
“Having the ability to get my kids educated” is “huge” in Having’s mind: “It’s not going to be feasible to work on a hotspot while the kids do their homework,” he said.
“Beyond that, just the ability to have the same kind of internet as folks in other places” is important to him.
He’s not the only one: A Pew Research study from last year indicated just 63 percent of rural U.S. adults say they have home internet that’s broadband or better. But an earlier Pew study showed that a quarter of rural Americans view high-speed internet as a “major problem” for their local community.
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“Streaming TV is pretty much not even capable where we are,” Having said.
In a statement last week, Jay, the Verizon spokesperson, said, “As a brand new product, we are initially offering LTE Home Internet in areas where there’s available network capacity, which includes parts of three markets, including Springfield… we will be expanding these initial footprints in the coming weeks. We will also evaluate on an ongoing basis and determine if there are other locations where Verizon Network capacity intersects with the needs of the local community and it makes sense to offer LTE Home Internet.”
Gregory Holman is the investigative reporter for the News-Leader. Email news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org and consider supporting vital local journalism by subscribing. Learn more by visiting News-Leader.com/subscribe.
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