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Verizon optimized on campus

Justin Tardiff | Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Plagued by delays throughout the summer and fall, the University’s plan to improve cellular telephone service was finally completed over fall break when Verizon optimized its service on campus.

Both Cingular and Verizon entered into agreements with the University last spring to begin an antenna-installment project during the summer.

The project’s goal, said Gordon Wishon, chief information officer for the Office of Information Technologies, was to provide enhanced cell phone service on campus by the first home football game. Cingular achieved the goal in September, but because Verizon lacked the equipment to connect the campus antennas to its nationwide network, it lagged behind its rival, Wishon said.

Verizon had originally expected the equipment to arrive after football season, but the company made some changes, Wishon said.

“They expedited the delivery of that equipment, in order to get it in before the UCLA game,” he said. “They were successful in getting it installed, in place, and operational. So, in fact, the customers of Verizon on campus should now be enjoying much-improved service.”

For junior Sara Cermak, the improved service was a pleasant surprise.

After perusing Irish paraphernalia at the Bookstore Monday afternoon, Cermak couldn’t decide on a sweatshirt color for her mom. She quickly reached for her cell phone, but was doubtful she would get a signal.

She pushed the green “talk” button anyway.

“It actually went through, which is unusual,” Cermak said. “I’ve done that earlier this year, and it didn’t work.”

Sophomore Verizon customer Mikalyn Steinbrueck is also grateful for the improvements. A chronic oversleeper, Steinbrueck relies on her parents’ persistent phone calls to rouse her – a method that proved faulty last year when she was a freshman in the basement of Pangborn, where she had no cell phone service. Her parents had to call the dorm phone every morning, which her slumbering roommate did not appreciate.

“We ended up having to switch roommates at the semester,” Steinbrueck said. “Then I went to the second floor, and I didn’t get service there either.”

When the University announced it would stop providing in-room telephones beginning this year, the Steinbruecks planned to pay the additional cost to have one in Mikalyn’s room. But once she got to campus, she said, there was no need.

“It works fantastically. I get service basically everywhere on campus,” she said. “Some game weekends, it doesn’t work as well as normally, but I can definitely see an improvement from last year.”

And although Verizon predicted dropped calls during the four-day optimization process last week, Steinbrueck’s service remained steady.

“I was here during [fall] break, and I heard that the system was supposed to go down, but I didn’t have any problems at all with my cell phone,” she said. “I’ve had perfect service.”

Now, the wake-up call that comes in each morning (on a crystal-clear five bar signal) is just loud enough for Steinbrueck – and quiet enough to be ignored by her snoozing roommate.