Bryan Cohen Jul. 3, 2013, 7:37pm

HELENA, Mont. (Legal Newsline) - Montana Attorney General Tim Fox announced options Tuesday for Verizon subscribers who recently started experiencing a disruption of cell phone service to help them switch carriers or improve coverage.

Last week, Fox's Office of Consumer Protection started getting calls from customers in primarily rural areas who experienced a disruption of service. The disruption occurred after a three-year contract letting the calls of Verizon subscribers roam using AT&T cell towers in Montana ended on June 22. The contract was part of a 2010 deal brokered when AT&T purchased Alltel from Verizon in Montana.

Verizon deployed cellphone towers on wheels in multiple cities as a temporary solution. The company is also using repeaters to re-broadcast signals and enhance range while adding coverage to existing permanent facilities. Verizon is committed to look into other coverage problems reported in additional areas.

"Over the years, many Montanans dropped their landline phone service and now rely exclusively on cell phones," Fox said. "Having reliable mobile phone service is a public safety issue for Verizon consumers and law enforcement in the areas impacted by the service transition. We thank Verizon for their commitment to work around-the-clock to resolve coverage issues and address ways to satisfy their customer's concerns."

Montanans can contact Verizon technical support to help them with a rebooting process that may allow their devices to recognize other towers on the company's preferred roaming list network to improve coverage. Verizon is also offering billing and/or equipment discounts to customers who choose to stay with the carrier. Customers choosing to switch carriers will not have to pay early termination fees, which range from $175 to $350.

The OCP and the Montana Public Service Commission received calls from affected Verizon consumers in Great Falls, Virginia City, Ennis, Lincoln, Stanford, Cascade, Evaro, Harlem, Browning, Ft. Benton, Absarokee and Geraldine.

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