October 01, 2010

Gillibrand Urges FCC To End False Roaming Charges For New York’s Border Communities

Residents Receive International Roaming Charges For Calls Made Locally

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to work with cellular phone service providers to put an end to false international roaming charges received by residents along the New York-Canadian border. New York often receive false roaming charges on calls they make locally because their cell signal bounces to Canadian towers that have higher signal strength.

In her letter to Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the FCC, Senator Gillibrand wrote, “This is a major inconvenience brought about by no fault of the customer. Since cellular companies have the ability to track a customer’s typical tower and position to that tower, any undue roaming charges should be automatically dealt with by the service provider and not require a user’s explanation.”

Niagara Falls Mayer Paul Dyster said, “I support Senator Gillibrand’s efforts to end the common occurrence in which cell phone companies, due to varying strength between U.S. and Canadian cell towers, frequently charge New York State customers an international roaming fee for calls made along the U.S. and Canada border.  Because Niagara Falls, NY does share a border with our Canadian neighbors we find the Senator’s efforts to have significant merit for our local residents.  It is common for residents in this area to have unwarranted roaming charges appearing on their cell phone bills which necessitates contacting their carriers for a refund.”

Cell phone users along the border frequently experience roaming to Canadian cell towers, particularly in more rural areas, like New York’s North Country, where cell signal strength may be weak because of fewer towers in more sparsely populated communities. When customers dispute these charges with cell service providers, they can often spend hours explaining to the company that the roaming charges, which can sometimes add up to over $1,000 in a given month, are a result of bouncing to Canadian towers and not actual international phone calls. 

While cellular service providers will often remove these charges upon the customer’s request, this situation presents an unfair burden to New York consumers and can sometimes result in unfair roaming charges.