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South Dakota Public Utilities Commission
Frequently Asked Questions about Wireless Communications


Dec. 19, 2013

PUC Role

What is the PUC's role in wireless telecommunications service being offered in South Dakota?
Since the advent and emergence of wireless technology, the commission has been a strong advocate for encouraging the build-out, sustainment and improvement of wireless telecommunications services throughout the state. Trained, professional PUC staff members provide assistance to consumers who experience challenges with their wireless telecommunications service and work to troubleshoot problems or facilitate assistance from wireless company representatives.

Why can't the PUC require a wireless provider to build more towers?
The Federal Communications Commission is in charge of allocating spectrum for use by wireless companies. In addition, states are subject to certain restrictions in federal law regarding the regulation of wireless carriers. The PUC does not have any specific state authority that would allow it to require a wireless provider to build towers.

Quality of Service

What should I do if I have technical problems, such as issues with placing calls, dropped calls or emergency calling?
Contact your wireless provider's customer support. See the links at the end of this document.

I thought coverage in my area would be better. What are my options?
Become familiar with the coverage area offered by a carrier before entering into a service contract. Carriers have coverage maps on their websites for consumers to view. If you are a new customer and determine that the service you receive is not satisfactory, your carrier will typically allow you to cancel your contract and return all equipment within the first 14 days of being a customer, without a penalty. Keep all receipts and related paperwork to refer to later if needed.

What can I do if my wireless service goes out or the quality diminishes?
First, understand that wireless service is not guaranteed service for any consumers in any area. As a user, you should be fully aware of the capabilities of and the limitations to the wireless service you have as well as the functions of the wireless device you use. Additionally, emergency responders who rely on consumer wireless service for their emergency communications may encounter problems with service.

If you do experience service problems, contact your provider with complete details about the situation, including a description of the specific problem (dropped calls, calls not connecting, etc.), your location and the date/time when problems occurred. If, after you have spoken with your wireless provider, you still have difficulty achieving or understanding the resolution, contact the PUC for assistance by email at puc@state.sd.us or by phone at 1-800-332-1782.

I'm an AT&T customer and there's a functioning Verizon tower a block from my house. Why doesn't my handset show signal strength of five bars?
As an AT&T customer, you are unable to roam off Verizon's towers. Different parts of the companies' networks use different technologies. Prior to implementing 4G LTE technologies, AT&T used all GSM technologies while Verizon used all CDMA, and in many places the companies still rely on those technologies. In addition, the companies' new LTE networks are not compatible. Although some handsets are being made with the capability to use both companies' network technologies, roaming between the two carriers is not yet a possibility.  

Can I purchase a signal booster or repeater to enhance my signal?
Yes. However, consumers should keep in mind that the FCC has strict requirements and rules regarding the use of these devices. It is important that consumers be well informed about the proper installation and use of signal boosters. Malfunctioning, poorly designed or improperly installed signal boosters can interfere with wireless networks and cause interference to calls, including emergency and 911 calls. Visit the FCC's Signal Booster website for more information.

Changing Carriers

What should I do if I want to change wireless carriers?
You have the option to change providers, but you may need to pay an Early Termination Fee (ETF) according to your contract if you are opting out of your service terms. If you are a new wireless subscriber and decide the coverage is not sufficient, make your decision and contact your carrier as soon as possible within 14 days of your activation date in order to avoid an ETF. Return equipment as instructed to the carrier and keep all related receipts and documents as well as all future communications from your former carrier and your new carrier to reference if necessary.

I want to change carriers but keep my same number. What do I need to know?
If you wish to change carriers and want to port your number, you must keep your existing service while you are arranging to become a customer of the other company. For a short time, you will be a customer of both companies and will be responsible for the appropriate charges incurred during that transition. When cancelling service with your old carrier, be familiar with the terms of your contract and be sure to follow instructions regarding the return of equipment. Keep all related receipts and documents.

Additional Information

AT&T app available to report coverage problems
AT&T's Mark the Spot application allows you to report the location of dropped calls, blocked calls, poor voice quality, no wireless coverage or problems with data transmission directly to AT&T on your smartphone. Pinpointing coverage issues alerts AT&T to the lack of information provided by its metrics that track this data. After using the app, AT&T sends a text message to acknowledge your report has been received. The data provided through the app becomes part of a larger database that helps AT&T identify and optimize network performance and prioritize improvements. BlackBerry, Android and iPhone device users can download and access the Mark the Spot app for free or it can be found at BlackBerry App World, Google Android Market or Apple iTunes AppStore.

For additional information, consult these websites:
AT&T  or www.att.com
Verizon Wireless  or www.verizonwireless.com
FCC  or www.fcc.gov