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Meet The Cell Tower Climbers Who Died So We Could All Have iPhone & Android Phone Service

By / 05.22.12

Man, Frontline is airing an investigation tonight on PBS (check your local listings) that will have us all feeling like dicks for ever calling our mobile phone carriers to whine about dropped calls: “Cell Tower Deaths,” a “joint investigation by FRONTLINE and ProPublica explores the hazardous work of independent contractors who are building and servicing America’s expanding cellular infrastructure.”

Reports Pro Publica:

For each tower-related fatality since 2003, ProPublica and PBS “Frontline” traced the contracting chain from bottom to top, reviewing thousands of pages of government records and interviewing climbers, industry executives and labor experts.

We found that in accident after accident, deadly missteps often resulted because climbers were shoddily equipped or received little training before being sent up hundreds of feet. To satisfy demands from carriers or large contractors, tower hands sometimes worked overnight or in dangerous conditions.

One carrier, AT&T, had more fatalities on its jobs than its three closest competitors combined, our reporting revealed. Fifteen climbers died on jobs for AT&T since 2003. Over the same period, five climbers died on T-Mobile jobs, two died on Verizon jobs and one died on a job for Sprint.

The death toll peaked between 2006 and 2008, as AT&T merged its network with Cingular’s and scrambled to handle traffic generated by the iPhone. Eleven climbers died on AT&T jobs in those three years.

Ugh, yeah, I already feel like an a-hole. I’m just gonna shut up about Sprint not having 4G in New Orleans. You won’t hear another word out of me about it.

And if you miss it tonight, PBS will have have the special online here after it airs tonight.


TAGSCELL TOWER DEATHSfrontlinePBS

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