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Vinson: Still no fixed wireless, still no answers

Junior Vinson’s two-month battle with AT&T about his eligiblity for the company’s new fixed wireless service in eastern Franklin County has taken a turn. This time Vinson finds himself at odds with the Federal Communications Commission.

AT&T held a ribbon cutting on December 19, 2017 to announce fixed wireless internet service on a tower located just east of Macedonia Baptist Church on County Road 724. AT&T officials promised 10-megabit-per-second speed to all users within a three-to-five-mile range of the tower.

Vinson, who lives a half mile from the tower, tried to sign up for the service but was told by AT&T officials he was not eligible.

AT&T’s fixed wireless internet works through an antenna installed on the user’s home or business and an indoor Wi-Fi Gateway router. That antenna communicates with the nearest cell tower to ensure the strongest, most reliable signal, according to https://www.att.com/internet/fixed-wireless.html.

According to AT&T officials, locations of the towers are determined by census information and a formula used by the Federal Communications Commission.

In a February 5, 2018 statement to the Free Press, AT&T Public Relations spokesperson Catherine Stengel said: “Fixed wireless internet is limited to CAF II eligible areas as defined by the Federal Communications Commission. We continue to evaluate the alternative high-speed internet solutions available in the area.”

Vinson has faced difficulty getting information from AT&T as to why he was not eligible for the new service. Finally, on January 25 of this year, Vinson received formal notice from Roger Pereira with AT&T notifying him that “the service is currently not available. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

Vinson learned from Dave Hargrove earlier this month that he did not live within an FCC-designated census tract of eligibility, in spite of his home’s close proximity to the tower.

Vinson’s research determined he lives in census block 1075 within census tract 9733 in Franklin County. According to an FCC map, Vinson’s property falls within a small triangular area of ineligibility within a large tract of CAF II eligible area. His property is designated as “ineligible—below benchmark,” according to the map.

Vinson filed a complaint with the FCC, but that complaint was closed shortly after it was opened with no explanation to Vinson as to why his property is included in an ineligible area.

“It seems to me the FCC has indeed without rhyme or reason placed my address outside the CAF II eligible areas,” Vinson said. “They promptly closed my complaint without answering.”

Vinson received an email from the FCC on February 8, 2018, notifying him that his complaint file had been closed.

When AT&T announced fixed wireless service in Elmore County last year, the Elmore County Commission soon learned that not everyone within the three- to-five-mile range of the tower was eligible. Commissioner Bart Mercer released a statement saying the commission had no control over the coverage area and admitted “it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that people that close to the tower may not be able to use the service,” Mercer said.

Vinson certainly agrees that the criteria for who is and isn’t eligible doesn’t make a lot of sense to him either.

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