Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Faster service thrills cell phone users


The wait is over.

As of Monday, AT&T customers in Haines have seen faster service on their cell phones in the form of 3G and 4G networks.

Haines residents with AT&T contracts have griped for years about painfully slow Internet service on their cell phones and the company’s repeated promises to upgrade area towers to provide a faster network.

Len Dalton, project manager for AT&T Alaska, said the company performed work on a tower stationed on Mount Ripinsky last week. “There were some antennas changed, and some other hardware added.”

The changes effectively catapult AT&T customers from the sluggish, virtually unusable 2G network to the significantly speedier 3G or 4G networks.

Andrew Colley, AT&T’s personnel representative in Anchorage, said users can expect better coverage and faster Internet from the upgrade. “Customers should notice a big improvement in both data speed, and they can talk and surf at the same time.”

When Haines resident Tiffany DeWitt logged on to Facebook Monday, her page was abuzz with local friends celebrating the discovery of their instantly-improved mobile Internet access.

DeWitt has been an AT&T customer for 14 years. With 3G access on her iPhone 3S, DeWitt can listen to Pandora streaming radio in her car and keep in better touch with her family.

“Now I can send picture messages to my parents, because they are in Arizona, so I’ll do a lot more picture messages. I couldn’t do that before at all.”

Users must have 4G-capable phones to access the 4G network; for example, the iPhone 3S will only register the 3G network, while the iPhone 4S has the hardware to pick up 4G.

Dalton clarified that what Haines has now is not exactly 4G, although those with the right phones will see the small “4G” icon. Haines technically has 3G and HSPA+, which enhances a 3G network and makes its speed comparable to 4G.

Haines School gym teacher Lexie DeWitt said she heard the news from her students, who were raving about the new technology with their friends at school.

“I think one of the kids said, ‘We’re in the big city now,’ or something like that,” DeWitt said.

Though she doesn’t have Internet at her house, DeWitt can now use her phone to video chat with family.

“I think it’s really great that Haines is now up to speed with technology. Last night I was able to FaceTime with my parents. They were able to see my son and it was such a great way for us to connect,” she said.

Tourists who wander into town expecting their phones to work as usual also will benefit from the upgrade, DeWitt said. “Those people that come to visit Haines that are tourists, they want to share their experience, and now they can share it instantly. I think that’s a really powerful resource and tool.”

AT&T is planning similar upgrades to a tower off Mount Riley Road that has a different coverage area.

Some AT&T customers have been receiving spotty 3G and 4G coverage, and some haven’t been seeing any at all, which is likely due to their location.

Andy Hedden, who was at the Chilkat Guides office Tuesday on Sawmill Creek Road, said he wasn’t seeing a change in his service. “I’m looking at my phone right now and it just says AT&T. I am showing no 3G or 4G on my phone,” he said.

Other customers were grateful for any improvement. Brittany Miller, 19, is happy she can now access Facebook and email on her phone, but had little to say on the upgrade.“They should have done it a long time ago,” she said.