UPDATE Verizon made note of the cell signal border hopping phenomenon last autumn stating, “A wireless operator in Mexico, Altan, launched service along the border recently in the same spectrum band as Verizon. This is causing interference for some of our wireless customers – especially those closest to the border. We are working with the FCC, the Mexican Government and Altan to resolve this issue as soon as possible.”
The maverick signals are a competing wireless provider issue, not a government matter as Sheriff’s Commander Tom Alinen discovered when the Mexican broadcasts moseyed into his Arizona town.
As the Herald Review reported, the powerful signals have begun to overwhelm the local Verizon signal that powers the Douglas, Arizona Sheriff’s Office. Areas of the town of Douglas that abut Mexico’s town of Aqua Prieta are particularly vulnerable. Law enforcement in Cochise County struggles to operate efficiently in the face of a stronger signal emanating from a cell tower in Agua Prieta on the other side of the border. Officers first noticed this disruption about two months ago when their calls linked to the strongest signal and registered as international calls.
The Cochise County Sheriff’s Department has found ways to work around the problem, primarily by reverting to older radio communications. The workaround allows the officers to communicate with each other, but signals relayed the old fashioned way are slower, less precise, and are not secure transmissions. “The officers can’t use their cell phones because it rides our costs way up,” said Chief Deputy Thad Smith. “If I saw that on my phone, I wouldn’t make a call.” Smith added that fellow officers experienced exacerbated issues while on patrol. “They were trying to send information to SEACOM from computers in their cars and sometimes it was taking hours because the computer was not connecting and updating.” Smith said until a solution can be found, the old radio communications prevail.
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