Using a cell phone on the Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) campus has become an ordeal and sometimes impossible for some students and faculty. Once inside, many students find it better to just turn off their phone to save the battery, as most phones will continue to search for service which drains the battery all the way down.
Rumors have circulated of limited and blocked competitor carrier signals ever since the Verizon cell site was put on top of the library. However, some Verizon customers complain that their service is just as bad as everyone else’s. Inside or outside, all around the campus, coverage appears to be spotty for most users. Lucio Salamea, a Verizon customer and NEIU employee expressed displeasure with his service. “Even though we have a tower here right here at the school, signal is pretty bad. At this side of the campus, especially over here by the E wing it’s real bad, but if you go around to the other side of the building it gets a little bit better,” Salamea said. “When I try to download something from the internet, it takes forever and then I lose the signal. It’s very frustrating.”
Kim W. Tracy, the Chief Information Officer of NEIU said that “the Verizon site is a full cell site. It’s able to not only cover the campus, but also the surrounding neighborhoods.” Tracy said it’s not really the buildings that cause the issues. “The core problem is that the other carriers just don’t have enough coverage in our area.” No other companies have shown interest in building a site on or near the campus, according to Tracy.
Spokespersons for Verizon and Sprint agree that the towers do not block other carriers and in fact, should help customers receive a signal to roam. However, on the NEIU campus, students complain about not only missing calls and battery rundown, but using data for applications like email or texting is near impossible.
Hannah Kim, a junior at NEIU uses T-Mobile with 3G service on a smart phone. “Not only is my phone slow, but the service is really bad, especially in Lech Walesa Hall. Downstairs, upstairs, it doesn’t matter, I have no service- I can’t get to the internet. I’m actually switching to AT&T soon” said Kim. Tracy also agreed with the other carriers regarding the potential for service blockages. “No, it should not block their signals, as they ride on different frequencies controlled by the FCC,” Tracy said. “AT&T’s [signal] has gotten better in the time I’ve been here, but it’s still much worse than Verizon’s. The resulting coverage for Verizon is excellent everywhere on campus.” Eileen Rayahin, a junior at NEIU currently has AT&T and uses an iPhone. “My service is pretty good, but I don’t think it’s the service, I think it’s the phone. Ever since I got my iPhone, it’s been fine.
Sprint is in the process of updating their entire network in the Chicago area, but would not comment on a completion date. Their spokesperson did say if users continue to have issues, to be sure to call technical support so they can focus on those areas. Other carriers declined to comment on the issues in the area.