|An AT&T cell on wheels tower near Hopkinsville, Ky. (AT&T photo)|
Towns such as Madras, Ore., and Hopkinsville, Ky., have been preparing for the eclipse for years, and they've made a point to ask about getting extra cell service. "All four nationwide carriers — AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint — are addressing the problem by rolling out surge capacity," Fung reports. "Some are going to be cells on wheels, or COWs. Others are known as cells on light trucks, or COLTs. But whatever they're called, they're all designed to do one thing particularly well: Boost wireless capacity, in some cases by more than 300 percent." Carriers say the spikes in usage will likely travel with the eclipse's totality, and networks should be able to absorb the surge as easily as they would a major sporting event.
How much will this extra cell coverage cost the small towns? Nothing, in most cases. "It's in the best interest of the providers to be here," Madras resident Brian Crowe told Fung. "They want coverage for their customers." And in Madras, Fung reports, "It'll run the other way around: The telecom companies will be paying rent." Rural residents should enjoy the extra bars while they can.