Cell Hell

Just one day after Cingular Wireless announced it was going to charge customers $5 extra a month if they used older phones--which is to say, those without Global System for Mobile (GSM) technology--you can't use any of their phones. That is, you can't use 'em if you live in Texas. Why? Well, after trying to find a Cingular spokesperson for two hours--really, I called the Dallas offices (only to find Frank Merriman, the local PR guy, is out of town), as well as Atlanta, San Francisco and some place in Illinois--I found Lauren Garner in the Bay Area, who sent along a statement that says the following:

"About 2:45 p.m., Cingular began experiencing a problem with the long distance signaling system between Texas and Washington state. The problem may affect customers' abilities to make or receive calls. Areas affected appear to be limited to parts of Texas.

Repair teams are fully engaged but we have no estimated time of restoral at this time.

Customers can still communicate by text messaging, since data services are unaffected."

That's not entirely true: I tried sending a text message on my Treo and had no luck. Got the "error occured when sending this message" message. So, ya know, screw me. And that still doesn't explain how the outage occurred. I called Garner back, and she said she would check with Merriman. Dunno how. His cell phone ain't working either. Or is it?

Garner called just after Ritch Blasi, a Cingular spokesman based out of New Jersey, returned my call from a plane at a little before 6 p.m. C.S.T. to explain, "There was an outage. I don't know what the extent is, but I have been told we have the technicians checking it out with our equipment and with other vendors. We're still trying to figure out what the issues are." Next to him, a baby was crying. I felt kinda bad. Kinda. Not so much, actually. His cell phone was working, ya know?

Wonder what Sprint's service is like. --Robert Wilonsky

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