A complete lack of cell service in late July was not the beginning of Skagway’s phone troubles – far from it. But it has caused one of the biggest mobile uproars of the season.
The outage occurred on July 23, when the Ruby Princess docked at the Ore Dock backwards. Due to high tide and an extra deck, the ship was directly in the way of AT&T’s microwave dish on First Avenue.
People took their complaints to the Facebook page Skagway Swap, voicing their frustration over their lack of service and commiserating with fellow users.
Service was blocked once again on August 6 when the Ruby returned, though only for a few hours until the tide went out.
The lack of service is not only affecting day-to-day communication, but businesses as well.
When the phone lines are down, the post office is unable to accept or hand out packages. Businesses can’t use credit card readers from their phones. Phone calls can’t be made to distributors, and texts can’t be sent at all.
But regardless of the number of ships or the height of the tide, Skagway’s summer service has been poor at best.
AT&T’s Director of Communications Andy Colley issued an official statement on behalf of the company regarding the lack of service.
“Some Skagway customers may have experienced intermittent wireless service issues recently due to interference from docked cruise ships. The issue is resolved with the departure of a ship creating the interference and service continues to run normally. We are working closely with the cruise ship line and port officials to minimize future interference issues. We apologize for this inconvenience.”
When pressed with further questions about the lack of service even when the Ruby is not in port, a second response was sent, explaining how all carriers experience challenges when tens of thousands of people enter a limited geographic area.
The statement went on to say that the carrier is working toward adding LTE capacity before the start of next year’s tourist season, though they couldn’t say how or when.
A lack of cell service is a common trend in Skagway, and it seems to jump from carrier to carrier.
Verizon has had its limitations, as has GCI (formerly ACS). AT&T has now joined the party.
Though the larger issue must be dealt with by the carrier, the more immediate problem on “no service Thursdays” is being dealt with by Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska.
CLAA Skagway Port Director Steward Stephens said they plan to move the Ruby to the Railroad Dock for the remainder of the season.
“There’s a lot involved in moving ships to different docks,” Stephens said. ”The Ruby is trying to do everything they can to help.”