WASHINGTON COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — There’s a push to enhance cell phone service in the community of Hebron and surrounding areas, which have spotty or no coverage. That’s after law enforcement in Washington County say friends of Kaylin Gillis, who was fatally shot by an accused homeowner, had to drive several miles from the mistaken address to call for help.
It’s unclear if those minutes could have saved Kaylin’s life, but cellphone service is a major safety concern in that rural corner of Washington County.
“An innocent life was taken — a beautiful person — and you’ve got to drive five miles,” said Salem resident Mike Miller. Miller can see the nearest cell tower from his home. But he says a few years ago, after repairs to the tower, he and his neighbors lost their local Verizon cell phone coverage.
“It’s an AT&T tower now,” said Miller.
Many communities, rural and urban, struggle with the same issue. “You know, we have a cell phone desert here,” Colonie Town Supervisor Peter Crummey told NEWS10’s Anya Tucker. “And we are in Colonie, New York, in the downtown of the Capital Region.“
The former town judge says he has come up with what he believes is the first law in the state making it easier for cellular companies to install cell nodes (small, low-powered antennas) and upgrade existing technology to broaden coverage. “We took it out of the zoning board and the planning board — lengthy requirements. And actually allowed our highway superintendent to review the proposal. And if so, he could just authorize the installation on existing poles.”
Anya asked Brian Campbell, the town supervisor in Hebron where the fatal shooting happened, if he might wish to do something similar in his own community. “Yeah. That sounds great,” he replied.
You can see the AT&T owned tower from his farm. Campbell has AT&T service, but anyone with Verizon is out of luck. Campbell says Verizon does not have a tower in the area. Anya asked if he was in talks with Verizon to try to expand service.
“We are working on that.” He told her that it’s about getting through to the right people. “I can get a hold of some people. But I can’t get a hold of the one I need,” added Campbell. He says he has been working with his local representatives and Verizon.
The service in the area, which is located minutes away from the Vermont state line, is so bad that the judge who denied the accused shooter Kevin Monahan bail, said an ankle monitor was not an option because the technology relies upon cell service. NEWS10 reached out to Verizon officials several times for this story to ask what if anything is being done to improve coverage. We have so far not heard back from them.