Olney residents living near the Intercounty Connector have noticed decreased reception with their cell phone service, and some are attributing it to the opening of the road.
Some speculate the problems could be because of interference caused by the toll transponders or electronic variable message signs.
Kelly Melhem, director of communications for the Maryland Transit Authority, said the tolling equipment and the electronics system used are not on any conflicting frequency.
She said testing for any interference was conducted prior to the opening of the road, and that was supported by the license granted by the Federal Communications Commission.
“So with that in place, we don’t believe that the ICC is the cause of any cell degradation in the area,” she said.
Roy Peck, who lives on Emory Lane, filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.
Salomon Satche, district director of the Columbia field office of the Federal Communications Commission, said an investigation is under way.
“We had someone in the field conducting an investigation,” he said. “We don’t know the source of the interference, and don’t know when we will have that information.”
The first section of the Intercounty Connector opened in February, connecting Georgia Avenue to Interstate 370 in Gaithersburg. The remaining portion, which will connect Georgia Avenue to Laurel, is expected to open later this month.
Arnold Gordon, president of the Norbeck Meadows Civic Association, said after being contacted about the issue by Peck, he sent out an email asking if others had experienced similar problems.
“I heard from 28 people who said they were having problems, which is about 10 percent of the households,” he said. “I imagine there are probably more that just didn’t respond.”
Gordon said that although he has tried several different carriers, his own cell phone service always has been spotty in his home, which has prevented him from getting rid of his landline.
“I’ve heard from people who have T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T and Verizon, and they all say their service has deteriorated since the ICC opened,” he said.
Peck lives about one mile from the intersection of the ICC and Georgia Avenue, which also is the site of the cell tower. He also said there appear to be issues near Derwood and Leisure World in Aspen Hill.
“I don’t know what is causing this, and I can’t say for sure that it is the ICC, but it is very coincidental,” he said. “I have a feeling that this is the tip of the iceberg and that this is affecting more people.”
While Norbeck Meadows is west of Georgia Avenue, Chuck Graefe lives on Emory Church Road in Olney, which is east of Georgia Avenue but still in close proximity to the ICC.
Graefe has Sprint service; his wife has Verizon.
“Both of our phones are nonfunctional inside our house, but my wife can sometimes get service outside,” he said. “This started happening earlier this year, so there seems to be something to this.”
Graefe estimated the ICC probably is about 1,200 feet from his house. It is close enough he sometimes hears the traffic.
Graefe offered one possible reason for the problem. He questions whether the cell towers were redirected to serve the ICC when it was built, causing pockets of neighborhoods to not be serviced as well as they had been before.