MINNEAPOLIS - Sprint is fielding complaints of dropped calls and poor cell phone reception as the company upgrades phone towers in the Twin Cities area.
In Ramsey, over the past month, Everett Contois says he's had hundreds of dropped calls, which led him to speak with more than 20 customer service representatives in the past month.
"By the time you actually got to a person, you'd get two sentences in, and it would drop," said Contois.
Without a landline, Contois says his Sprint cell phone was his lifeline as a business owner and dad. He says Sprint admitted his problems were related to recent upgrades of nearby cell phone towers.
"So you still have to pay $150 to $175 for a service you never received, then you have to pay up to $350 for a cancellation fee just to start over again," said Contois.
Dozens of customers have taken similar troubles to Twitter, asking Sprint what's behind prolonged dropped calls in Minnesota.
Sprint spokesperson Stephanie Vinge Walsh says the company is launching a new wireless network called Network Vision, and is working around the clock to repair 3G performance problems. She said Network Vision is designed to allow significantly more data to travel on Sprint's network for a faster, reliable connection.
"Ultimately we expect to see a vastly improved network. As we deploy this all new 3G and 4G network, there are some disruptions taking place. We understand it's frustrating for our customers, we thank them for their patience," said Vinge Walsh.
Another frustrated customer, Anthony Huber, filed a complaint with the Minnesota Attorney General's Office saying the lack of service is crippling as a business owner and single parent.
"I have to literally drive from my home in Coon Rapids down to the middle of Fridley if not closer to northeast Minneapolis just to complete a phone call with anybody whether professionally or with my son or other family members," said Huber. "It's the only phone I use for any communications at all. I have a 5-year-old son I'd like to talk to."
In a letter to the Attorney General, Sprint said Huber's issues weren't with the network, but his device.
He activated a phone with a new company, and says Sprint's response signals a bigger problem.
"People are being duped in my opinion, into thinking it's not that big of an issue and it's their problem," said Huber. "They are a communications business. Their obligation is to provide service to the quality we pay for."
Vinge Walsh reiterated as deployment of the new network progresses customers will experience far fewer blocked and dropped calls.
After 15 years, Contois says he is no longer a Sprint customer. He paid cancellation fees and took his family plan to another carrier. He says he couldn't wait for tower upgrades because without this modern day connection, his safety was on the line.
"Frustration, anger, even a little bit of panic," said Contois of his past month dealing with Sprint. "It was worth $1,000 (for new phones) to talk to my family and have peace of mind," said Contois.
Vinge Walsh said Sprint has been building a new 4G LTE network from the ground up to help make customers' wireless experience faster and easier. She said as of July 2013, Sprint has now launched 4G LTE in 151 markets across the country and expects to provide 200 million people with LTE by the end of 2013.
The Minnesota Attorney General says they are aware of the situation are looking into the complaints. They encourage any concerned customers to file a complaint here: http://www.ag.state.mn.us/Consumer/Complaint.asp
The F-C-C says customers can also file a complaint with the agency at: http://www.fcc.gov/complaints