NYC To Compile List of Dead Spots
By Carlo Longino, Tue Oct 28 17:30:00 GMT 2003

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is asking the city's residents to let the city know where their mobile phones don't work, looking to compile a list of carriers' dead spots to release on -- wait for it -- November 24.

That day, of course, is the first day New Yorkers and other Americans can switch carriers and take their number with them. I'm curious to see how the list will be compiled, after all, different phones have very different RF performance, and what may be one person's dead spot may pose no problem for other users.

But in the grand scheme of things, this list is essentially government-sponsored gossip. And I think that's wonderful. Carriers aren't too forthcoming with detailed, specific information about their coverage (though they all offer some initial period in which a user can return their phone if they figure out it doesn't work in their house or anyplace else that's important to them), and this type of effort will prove to be much more effective than the efforts of another New Yorker, US Senator Chuck Schumer, to legislate how US carriers run their businesses.

Schumer and his staff compiled a list of 65 dead spots in the city and sent them to carriers in July, and are miffed that evidently none of them have been remedied. He's threatened the carriers that he'll get the FCC involved, saying they might be violating minimum-service regulations, and adding he might have to "beef up" his toothless "Cell Phone Bill of Rights", a piece of proposed legislation that basically looks to let the federal government monitor and mandate how carriers do business.

Schumer tries to package this effort as a exercise to make sure consumers have all the necessary information when they're choosing a carrier (I never realized it was so difficult) -- but the NYC city initiative promises to have a much more immediate and significant impact, even without hollow threats to the carriers.

One potential problem though -- when somebody finds a deadspot, how do they report it, since there's no coverage? Are they supposed to wait until they're somewhere with coverage? And how many people will do that?