Bethel Residents Struggle With GCI Smartphone Data

GCI is in the process of transitioning to 3G data service for smart phones in the Bethel area. But as many users know, the internet isn’t always the fastest or in some cases, available at all.

GCI CoverageGCI admits it has had problems with tower installations in Bethel, and had hoped to have 3G in place by now. It will not be deployed until February of next year. Ten nearby villages will not get it until next summer, according to David Morris, a spokesman for GCI.

“These things aren’t as simple as going to a store and buying something and turning it on. There’s a lot of grooming that takes place to get the signal overlap in the right way and modulate in the right way and a few other things,” Morris said. “We had some similar challenges in Dillingham this summer when we were converting Dillingham to 3G. It’s unfortunately part of the process of continuing to advance the technology.”

Shawna Divelbliss is a Bethel resident and GCI customer. She pays for cable, internet, and three phone bills. But she says her phone data doesn’t work. To connect, she has to log on to wifi- which she also gets through GCI.

“The real issue with me is they charge me $19.99 for data on my phone and then I come home and pay them again for wi-fi service at my house. I had a $600 bill to access the internet for my business,” Divelbliss said.. “So I’m paying twice.”

Divelbliss calls GCI every month and has gotten her 60 dollars in data fees returned along with some extra internet service. GCI’s David Morris confirms that the company has been issuing credits.

“Customers, if they believe they are not getting the type of speeds they should be getting should call into customer service and do them on a case by case basis, that’s really the best way to handle things,” Morris said.

Divelbliss posted on facebook’s Bethel Bargains page and started a chain reaction of people chiming in with their own GCI data stories. Over 114 comments had been added since her first post, which she wrote after months of frustration.

“..Just laid it all out there and I am so thrilled that so many people have gone on there and have not only called and kept with it, but have and documented all the different things that GCI has told them and all the different lies. It’s all documented on that feed right now,” Divelbliss said.

GCI’s contact information is available here.

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Ben Matheson is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network.

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