Route 28 cell service stalled due to economy

By Jay Braman Jr.
The ongoing saga of cell phone service along the upper Route 28 Corridor continues with no end in sight. These days, everyone’s blaming something on the economy, and now added to that long list is the lack of quality cellular phone service in Shandaken. where poor or no coverage is still not the exception but the norm.
One year after Mariner Tower Inc. built a 180-foot structure on town-owned property at Glenbrook Park in the hamlet of Shandaken, it stands tall on the horizon, like some Erector-set sculpture. Ready for business, the tower has yet to have even one service provider on it, leaving the highway, and most of the town, devoid of coverage beyond the Olive/Shandaken border in Boiceville.
Supervisor Peter DiSclafani said it wasn’t for lack of trying. The tower’s owners, he said, have been trying to make deals with providers and he himself has been on the phone, but so far nothing has happened.
Those points were confirmed and elaborated on by Chris Ciolfi, Mariner Tower’s man in charge of development.
The bottom line, Ciolfi said, is that both the town and Mariner rolled the dice when they made the deal a couple years ago to build the tower. Back then, he said, the economy was still strong, and all the data supported the notion that if a tower was built that the providers would gladly set up shop.
But then the economy went sour.
Ciolfi said the carriers, like any business, have been rethinking their plans and no longer want to devote resources to expand coverage in a remote area.
“Back then it was different,” he said, referring to 2007 when the local cellular future looked bright. “Now the providers are looking to get the biggest bang for their buck, and that’s not in Shandaken.”
Ciolfi, who notes that his company is the loss leader in this spectacle given that they paid to build the tower already, said that he keeps trying.
“We’ve been talking to the major carriers, but we no influence on what they build or where they build,” he said.
He also said he was glad that the town has pitched in to help by preparing a petition and reaching out to other levels of government for support.
“It all helps,” he added.
This week DiSclafani said he prepared the petition after the last town board meeting, but has yet to advertise it. He hopes Mariner can use the results as a type of carrot on a stick to entice the likes of Verizon, AT&T or others to give Shandaken a chance.
The petition can be viewed and signed by logging on to the town’s website at www.shandaken.us.