ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Lawmakers and advocates are discussing ways to improve cell phone service in rural areas following the death of 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis, who was killed after the vehicle was turned into the wrong driveway in Schuylerville. Authorities say the driver of that vehicle had to drive several miles before reaching a location with cell phone service to call 911.
For years lawmakers have been pushing for better coverage in rural areas. The recent tragedy is shining more light on the issue. “When I heard this, I couldn’t even come up with words to express how tragic and horrific this is,” said Assemblymember, Matthew Simpson whose district occupies Washington County, where Gillis was killed. He said the lack of cell phone service is a public safety issue that the legislature will address, “I actually have a meeting next week with one of the providers and this is going to be the topic of how we can continue to build out this program and what we need to do as lawmakers we’ve had these discussions. But it’s been treated differently as broadband has.” Simpson said this could mean incentivizing the build-out of cell towers.
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, who is a member of the upstate cellular coverage task force, said her district of Sullivan and Orange County has many regions where there’s little to no coverage. It’s especially concerning, considering the outdoor activities like canoeing, tubing and hiking that take place there. “That puts a lot of people in danger, you know we have had … different incidents in that area and people are unable to get the help that they needed because there is no cell phone coverage,” she said.
When Capitol Correspondent, Amal Tlaige asked Gunther why companies don’t provide service in those areas, she said it’s because the providers want larger groups of people seeking the service, “They wanna make money, and you know some areas have few and far between, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t provide the services they’re making money hand over fist.” Gunther said as of right now it’s unknown when the task force will meet next.