CIRCLE- Mid-Rivers Communications announced Wednesday it’s selling its cellular network assets to Verizon, ending its 22-year cellular business in eastern and central Montana.
The sale includes Mid-Rivers cell towers, retail operations and mobile wireless sites where Verizon does not have coverage, according to a Mid-Rivers release. The switch in the network is expected to be completed later this year.
The co-op emphasized the sale does not include cellular customers or other aspects of Mid-Rivers’ business, including broadband internet and landline phone service. Full-service providers are Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, according to Mid-Rivers.
Mid-Rivers coverage area extends from the North Dakota border to central Montana, including Sidney, Glendive, Baker, Miles City, Roundup and Lewistown.
Mid-Rivers customers can choose from a number of new providers that offer service in the area, including Verizon. Other options include AT&T, TracFone, StraightTalk or T-Mobile, according to a Mid-Rivers fact sheet.
Verizon is offering special deals reserved for Mid-Rivers’ 1,700 customers.
Merisa Saunders, a spokeswoman for Verizon-Cellular Plus, said most customers will be able to keep their phone numbers, and they can visit local Verizon-Cellular Plus stores in Miles City, Glendive, Sidney or Lewistown for details.
Verizon has set up locations this week in Baker and Circle to answer questions and help switch companies, she said.
“We are very excited to bring the Verizon network to Mid-Rivers’ cell phone customers,” Saunders said in an email.
Verizon-Cellular Plus is the Billings-based authorized Verizon dealer for the area. The company operates 61 stores in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Washington and Oregon.
The Mid-Rivers co-op launched its cellular service in eastern Montana in 1997, building towers where large telecom companies did not cover.
“Today, the cellular market is very different, and there are other providers who can better meet your mobile wireless needs,” said Mid-Rivers General Manager/CEO Michael Candelaria in a written statement. “The substantial amount of roaming dollars from other carriers that helped build the network and keep it going are drying up. The sale of our cellular network assets now will help insure that quality modern wireless services remain available in this region into the future.”
Customers who are impacted by the sale will receive notice from Mid-Rivers and should contact the Cooperative at 1-800-452-2288 or visit www.midrivers.com for more information.
Reporting by Erik Olson for MTN News