Verizon installing cell tower at state park office to cure long-standing dead zone
(Nov. 22, 2019) After five or six years of goading Verizon and various public officials, it seems as though Worcester County Commissioner Bud Church may finally be successful in obtaining cell service in the Assateague and South Point area.
Apparently unaware of that, Church said a resident of the area called him two or three weeks ago to report that people were working on a tower at Assateague State Park.
David Weissmann, a spokesman for Verizon, confirmed that the company is working to get cell service functional for the summer 2020 season.
“The new cell site will add coverage and capacity for visitors to the island as well as first responders,” Weissmann said. “We worked closely with both state and local officials for approvals, and expect the site to be available to Verizon users well in advance of the summer season.”
That is outstanding news to the many people who have been frustrated by Assateague’s well known dead zone.
Church said he has had letters from residents as well as the superintendents of both the state and national parks recounting the times they could not make a phone call or send a text message.
That situation was especially alarming in the cases of emergency.
“Someone would have an injury and try to call for help, and it wouldn’t work,” Church said.
In a March 2017 letter to Church, Angela Baldwin, park manager for Assateague State Park, mentioned that the campground office received visitor questions and concerns regarding cell service.
“They are especially concerned when overnight camping since their cell phone is the only means of communication,” Baldwin said in the letter.
He said the project took several years because of three issues – location, proof of need and funding. He believes that Verizon is funding the entire project.
In addition, those Church reached out to, including Rep. Andy Harris (R-1) and Gov. Larry Hogan, were reluctant to get involved. Church said he was told by many people that Verizon would not make the effort for only 300-400 residents. But the letters from residents and the employees of the two parks apparently got someone’s attention, according to Church.
“If you get an emergency that results in a death, and you knew about it, that might end up in some liability,” Church said.
He added that communications service is vital because the state and national parks receive millions of visitors a year. For now, it seems like the voices of residents, state and national park employees and Church wore down Verizon.
“Verizon gave me half a dozen people to talk to from Baltimore and Washington,” Church said. “They could’ve cared less. It was frustrating. I’m a dog when it gets a hold of a bone it doesn’t want to give up.”