The Hidden Upside to New Yorkers' Awful Cell Phone Service

If you're a New Yorker, you've likely complained about your awful cell phone service at some point. It's part of living in a city where people live on top of people, under huge buildings, and they're all screaming into expensive, overheated little machines radiating someone else's screaming into your brain.

Well, feel validated. Because it really does suck that terribly.

Via The Wall Street Journal, did you know!

  • The best place in the city to get service is the Lincoln Tunnel.
  • The worst place in the city to get service: the Upper East Side between 87th and 94th streets.
  • Other terrible places for service: Long Island City, Sunnyside, the North Shore of Long Island, and western parts of Newark.
  • And AT&T really is that awful: If you cross below 59th Street, your calls get routed from a switch in Westchester to a switch downtown.

Also, you shouldn't feel bad for bitching about it. We actually do have it worse than everyone else:

Network quality in New York pales in comparison to that in other big U.S. cities. While Chicago, Dallas and Seattle have call-success rates well north of 98%, New York stands at 97.27%, according to Nielsen data. Those may look like slim margins, but phone calls aren't graded on a curve. Customers expect them to work all the time.

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The Wall Street Journal, in all of its glory -- and this map is quite glorious in a beautifully masochistic way -- fails to turn out the one upside to New Yorkers having absolutely terrible cell phone service:

The "Dropped Call" Excuse.

How many times have you wanted to get off the phone mid-call? All the time. Don't lie. But you have to wait for the other person to give you some kind of exit point to get off of it or else put yourself out there and make a concerted, strained effort to get off the phone. Which requires the exertion of effort. Enter the dropped call. The service fizzles out. You give your phone a "Hello? HELLO?" or two, and then you turn your phone off, because you know that when you try to call someone else, and someone else tries to call you, you get each other's voicemail. And you know that New Yorkers understand the Dropped Call as an impenetrable excuse, especially one you can turn on in the clutch even when your calls aren't being dropped (just pretend you can't hear the other person on the line, scream something along the lines of "Goddamn phone!" into your cell, and hang up). It almost makes having awful cell phone service worth it. Not quite, but definitely almost.

[fkamer@villagevoice.com]


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