In portions of eastern Montana, already-spotty cellphone coverage has gotten even harder to find. AT&T began killing off mobile coverage for residents in the area this month.
Aaron Heath, an auto parts salesman based in Wolf Point, said the news that his cellphone was getting cut off came as a shock. He got home after work last week to find a letter from AT&T stating the carrier was dropping his coverage, effective that day.
“I still had service, and I just called, double-checking, since I already went through this with Verizon once and was trying to be proactive,” Heath said, referring to Verizon’s decision in 2017 to stop offering contracts to customers in portions of Eastern Montana.
Since he uses his phone to clock in at work, to contact customers and to receive photos of parts he needs, Heath said the sudden loss of service forced him to scramble to get orders processed and delivered on time.
The loss of AT&T leaves Nemont Telephone Cooperative as the only available mobile provider in some parts of the region. Nemont marketing manager Leif Handran said the majority of the company’s 11,000 customers live in northeast Montana, although the co-op has also expanded into surrounding areas.
Wolf Point resident Erik Johannessen said he recently opened up shop in his town as a T-Mobile wireless service dealer, offering coverage through the national telecom company after it recently began expanding its coverage into the region.
In the past year or so, he said the company has either constructed new cellphone towers or placed its own transceivers on existing towers from Circle to Scobey and as far west as Hinsdale and Havre. Its total cellular sites number about 30 in the region, he said.
“Verizon found out they were paying roaming charges like crazy to Nemont,” he said. “I think it took AT&T that long to realize they were doing the same thing Verizon was doing.”
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