After spending the last three years at the University of Colorado, senior Saul Evanoff has learned his way around the Boulder campus.
He knows where to go to get the best coffee, where to study — and where he’ll be guaranteed to drop a call from his cell phone.
“The Engineering Center is really bad and the library doesn’t have good service, either,” Evanoff said. “I never have good service there, so I don’t even try to use my phone anymore.”
For most CU students, spotty cell phone reception has become the norm on campus and has gotten worse with the construction of new environmentally friendly buildings. University officials say they’re hard at work on ways to improve cell phone service on campus.
A recent analysis of signal strength found that there are weak spots across campus, particularly in newly constructed buildings that meet LEED environmental standards, said Greg Stauffer, communications manager for CU’s Information Technology Services.
“The problems in LEED buildings had to do with improved insulation and UV filtering windows affecting signal strength,” Stauffer said. “It was an unexpected effect of the new construction, but we’re working on addressing the issue as quickly as possible.”
Stauffer said the weak signal is a “safety concern” that already is being addressed by a team of representatives from various departments across campus.
“We’re in the second half of the process now,” Stauffer said. “We’ve located the weak spots through the survey we did and that’s a big portion of the project. Now we’re working with outside vendors to get proposals for improvements.”
CU sophomore Aubrae Isenhart, a T-Mobile customer, said she would like to see an improvement in cell service on campus after a dead zone at the Engineering Center caused her to miss out on part of a study session.
“I was supposed to go to this study session for one of my exams, but when I got to the building it was locked,” Isenhart said. “I tried to call or text someone, but my phone wouldn’t work so I was just stuck.”
Luckily, a classmate walked by a few minutes later and helped her find the group.
High date usage
While the university is not in full control of the towers that provide cell service to campus, the school cooperates with providers to help increase coverage. Verizon Wireless recently increased capacity on its seven towers near CU as part of a nationwide campaign to improve service on college campuses, strengthening the company’s local network.
“We’re trying to stay ahead of the demand,” Verizon spokesman Bob Kelley said.
Kelley said a boom in data usage, especially among young adults, was the main reason for the campus campaign, which improved towers near several colleges nationwide, including four in Colorado. The expansion likely will increase the company’s annual network investment, which is expected to exceed $110 million in Colorado this year.
CU senior Lauren Bloethner, who uses Verizon, said she has become accustomed to spotty reception, since that’s a problem common among most cell phone carriers — and not just on campus.
“I think most people are used to not having great reception,” Bloethner said. “It’s less annoying now because I’m so used to it.”
Most students agreed that poor reception was inevitable on and off campus, but they said they’re hoping efforts by Verizon, AT&T and CU will improve their service.
CU freshman Eddie Stacho said he’s already found a dead zone in the campus bookstore and a few spots walking across campus where his AT&T-serviced iPhone doesn’t work.
AT&T spokeswoman Sandy Goldberg said the company is aware of service problems CU students are having on campus and is planning to address the issue soon.
“AT&T is actively working with the university right now to enhance coverage on the campus,” Goldberg wrote in an e-mail. “We’ve added capacity to two cell sites near the campus and we have plans to continue to add capacity to the area.”
Despite cooperation between the university and networks to make adjustments to towers and work on service issues, students are not convinced that the spotty service problem will be solved anytime soon.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Stacho said.