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February 23, 2010, 10:00 AM ET

Santa Clara U. Students Call for Better Cellphone Service

iPhone-toting students at Santa Clara University say they're fed up with AT&T's poor reception on the campus, so they organized a day of complaint to lobby the company for better coverage.

Students and professors made a couple hundred phone calls to the cellphone provider one day this month. Kelsey Houlihan, a junior at Santa Clara who helped organize the event, dubbed "Campus Wide Call AT&T to Complain Day," said that AT&T users can't get reception in many of the dormitories, in the basements of the library and the student center, in some academic buildings, and in student houses near the campus. Ms. Houlihan estimated that between 200 and 300 people called AT&T to complain, based on the number of people who joined the Facebook group for the event and the number of flyers that she and other students passed out. The flyers listed a direct number to call and suggested what to say in the conversation.

Ms. Houlihan said that she knew of many students who had switched from AT&T to another provider, but that not everyone can easily do so. She explained that many students are on their parents' family plans with AT&T or rely on the company for iPhone service (the company has exclusive rights to work with Apple's device).

On the morning of the demonstration, before the majority of the calls were even made, Leon F. Beauchman, an area manager for AT&T, made an unexpected visit to the campus. He had caught wind of the event and came to discuss the problem with students.

In fact, Santa Clara officials had already been working with AT&T for a few months to devise a way to improve reception on the campus.

Joe Sugg, assistant vice president for university operations, said he didn't know whether or not the calls from students helped move things along, but "it probably got their attention -- it made my job a little easier."

Mr. Sugg said that one solution was being evaluated already, and that if all went well, Santa Clara might have much better service by this summer.

Comments

1. 11272784 - February 23, 2010 at 05:51 pm

I like the idea! That puts a point to the problem.

2. wmartin46 - February 23, 2010 at 06:25 pm

It's a shame that the students haven't tried to develop a "reception map" so that the areas of poor reception could be identified for AT&T and themselves. Something a simple as a grid overlay of the campus showing signal strength, and maybe the call drop rate for each of the grids quadrants, would not be that hard to do.

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