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September 10, 2006

Welcome to the garbled zone

Driving through the scenic twists and turns of North Hills Street in Meridian, newspaper carrier Carleen Cummings knows exactly where her cell phone service will be interrupted.

One of those spots, the Cingular customer says, is the area between Hickory Hills and the Dixie Bowling Alley.

“I’ll be talking to my daughter, and I just lose her,” Cummings said.

Welcome to the garbled zone.

You know, those geographic vicinities supposedly in your cell phone company’s coverage area, but nevertheless places where your signal either drops entirely, or, you simply can’t hear or be heard by the person you’re speaking with.

It’s the frustration that has made the line, “Can you hear me now?” a part of everyday life.

After dismissal at Meridian High School on Thursday, students — most with cell phones attached to them — said that most of the indoor and outdoor portions of the school itself are garbled zones with several cell service providers.

“I don’t have a bar right now,” complained senior Andrea Rodgers about her Cingular service, as she waited outside for a ride. “It only works in the boys gym and the science building.”

Other students said that Cellular South, Sprint, and T-Mobile were the best in front of the school, but had service limitations elsewhere.

Some customers find they actually need two competing cell services to survive.

Lovie Holloway of Collinsville, a sales representative at South Central Wireless, says she “no bars” with Cingular at her home in the Martin area of Collinsville, so she uses Cellular South for calls there. On the other hand, when she’s driving on County Road 495 near DeKalb, she says her Cellular South service is spotty, but “I have four bars on my Cingular.”

A number of cell phone users expressed the belief that Meridian and Lauderdale County are getting shortchanged by the giant cellular service providers — if not being taken for granted.

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