Sprint’s Network Vision Upgrade and How It Affects Your Contract
Posted on by Jon Colgan
If you’re a Sprint customer, you’re probably acquainted with dropped calls, weak data connectivity and the like. Sprint’s cell phone network is notoriously unreliable, and, of the Big Four US carriers, most of the complaints I hear about network deficiency come from Sprint customers.
There are a number of reasons for this, and Neal Gompa at Extreme Tech wrote a good article on the topic. So, I won’t restate those here (just hop over to Neal’s article, if you’re interested). Instead I’ll tell you what this means for Sprint customers wanting to get out of a Sprint contracts.
Often the culprit for a sudden wave of network deficiencies in a given area is a technician tampering with a nearby tower. Sprint technicians have been tampering with towers all across the US since 2012 as part of its Network Vision Upgrade. So, if your cell phone service is suddenly terrible, there’s a good chance technicians are turning wrenches in your area.
Living through the upgrade process is inconvenient, but is it a legitimate reason for getting out of a contract? If you were to ask, Sprint would tell you no. I think the answer is yes. Here’s why.
I’ve lived through an extensive home renovation. In the kitchen, for example, contractors ripped out the countertops and hauled away the appliances. They cutoff the water supply in order to remove the sink and the dishwasher. Then they left, and my home was without a usable kitchen. The dishes piled up. I couldn’t cook. I was materially adversely affected by the disruption.
I owned that house, and the renovation was my choice. In hiring the contractor, I had agreed to the temporary disruption. The disruption was my choice.
Now consider a hypothetical modification of my renovation story. Suppose I rented that house. Suppose the landlord had unilaterally decided to renovate during my tenancy. Suppose I continued to pay rent as agreed. Without a usable kitchen, would I be getting what I paid for? No. In fact, such a unilateral and uncompensated disruption would probably be illegal in most jurisdictions. That landlord would not be performing as the rental contract required. The fair thing for the landlord to have done would either have been for him to first ask my permission or compensate me for the disruption. If the landlord did neither and I reported him to the housing authorities, he would probably be in hot water.
Contracting to provide cell phone service is like contracting to rent a house. When the provider disrupts the usability of what is being contracted for, it’s materially adverse to the recipient–in this case, either the tenant or the cell phone customer.
But maybe you’re sympathetic with the provider. Maybe you’ve lived through a home renovation and know that such disruptions are often only temporary. A few days or even weeks is no big deal, right? If a customer’s cell phone service is unusable for just a week, maybe that doesn’t offend your sense of justice.
Regardless of where you might stand on a disruption lasting only a week, I bet we would all agree that 4-6 months definitely qualifies as materially adverse, especially if the customer is required to continue paying without interruption. Would it be fair for a tenant to pay the same rent for a house with no usable kitchen for 4-6 months? Nope. Nor would it be fair for a cell phone customer to pay the same price for unusable cell phone service during Sprint’s 4-6 month long Network Vision Upgrade in his area.
Four to six months–that’s how long each Network Vision Upgrade disruption lasts when Sprint technicians show up in an area. It says so on the website of Sprint’s wholly owned Virgin Mobile brand:
Q. Will customers be impacted during the network build-out?
A. Yes, you may experience temporary service disruptions, such as data delays or blocked/dropped calls, while we are replacing existing hardware with new, state-of-the-art equipment. But it will be worth the wait; when the build-outs are completed, you can expect to have better service than before (more coverage, fewer dropped calls, and faster internet speeds).
Q: How long does it take to start and finish the network upgrades in a specific market?
A: Each market is different. It depends on the numbers of cell sites in that area, how densely populated the area is, and if there are other issues, for example, related to leasing and zoning permits. Most markets are expected to take 4 – 6 months but larger cities, such as New York City or Los Angeles, may take 10 – 12 months.
Six months is a long time to pay for something you aren’t getting. If you pay for cell phone service but don’t get it, that’s not fair. The fair thing for your carrier to do is either give you the cell phone service you pay for or to let you out of the contract. Sprint, of course, isn’t as interested in fairness as it is in keeping your money. So, I doubt readers would have much luck calling and asking Sprint to do the fair thing and let you out of the contract.
The good news is that CellBreaker.com is obsessed with fairness. We have documented evidence that Sprint customers aren’t just being divas. They’re paying for service they’re not getting. Customers are performing as promised, but Sprint is not. Lately, Sprint’s network deficiencies have been even worse, and as a result, we’ve helped a bunch of disgruntled customers break up with Sprint.
Communication is too important to disrupt and fairness too important to be sidestepped. CellBreaker.com will not let carriers obstruct your right to communicate freely and your right to be treated fairly.