Even Though You Can't Get Service, Tmobile Won't Let You Leave Without Fee

Evan sent the following complaint letter to Tmobile’s CEO:

I am a T-Mobile customer from Miami, FL. I am writing you to report the unconscionable treatment I have received from T-Mobile over the past six months. For the past six months I have received no cellular reception in my area. After repeated calls and technical checks, the T-Mobile technical team issued a report stating that there is no coverage in my home and T-Mobile has no intention of upgrading the service in my area. I was initially told that upgrading my equipment to a new phone may resolve my issue. After a contract renewal and significant expense for the new equipment, my service is no better than it was previously.

I was then told that I was “stuck” with no service in my home under my current rate plan. Furthermore, I was told that my only option was to upgrade my service yet again to a “T-Mobile home hotspot” at a cost of $20.00 per month plus yet another equipment upgrade of at least $150.00. These costs would be in addition to the cost of broadband internet service provided by a third party. Seeing that I did not wish to upgrade yet again, it was suggested in the alternatively that I move to a new home. These callous suggestions are indicative of the general attitude at T-Mobile. I am forced to incur significant expense to use a service which I’ve already paid for.

Although T-Mobile has acknowledged that it is not able to provide me service without an upgrade, and therefore not delivered the service it is contractually bound to deliver, I am still bound by the early termination fee of $200. This “take-it-or-leave-it” deal is disreputable. T-Mobile lures consumers into contracts which it can not deliver upon and then charges the customer additional expenses to actually receive service which it promises. If the customer decides to move to a competitor which is able to provide service, T-Mobile socks the consumer with an early termination fee. Either way T-Mobile wins. The choice of paying for upgraded service or termination fees is anti-competitive and needs to be addressed.

Sincerely,

Evan G.
T-Mobile Account Number: [redacted]
T-Mobile Number: [redacted]

That’s just crazy. In fact, not being able to get service is one of the situations where one CAN get out of a cellphone contract without paying termination fee. You’re signing a contract saying that you will provide your monies in exchange for their services. They’re not providing the service and are thus in breach of contract and the contract is void. The problem, Evan, is that you’ve been talking to Tier 1 reps, who are apparently more concerned will upselling you on useless services than solving your problem. Try talking to the Retentions department. You can call them at 1-877-524-9422.

Comments

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  1. AlisonAshleigh says:

    I cancelled with T-Mo on Monday, and paid the $200 fee. I still had TWO FULL YEARS left with them, and they charged me an $18 fee they couldn’t explain, and refused to remove it from my bill.
    The rep got all snotty about it and said “You know you have to pay $200 to cancel, right?” and I pointed out she may have gained $218 today, but based on my monthly bill, lost $1272 in the long run. Sucks for them.
    Now I have AT&T and they make me happy, and gave me free shiny things for signing up. Woo!

  2. AlisonAshleigh says:

    @AlisonAshleigh: For the record I’m not one of those crazy assholes who cancels over 18 bucks…I realized thats how my 1st comment sounded. There have been a TON of issues since last summer, defective phone after phone (3 total), being charged for a month i didn’t even HAVE a phone because they kept sending me phones with software problems, and a ton of other little things. $18 was just the last straw for me.

  3. Stan LS says:

    “I was initially told that upgrading my equipment to a new phone may resolve my issue.”

    Uhm, the keyword is “may” here.

  4. HermesSP says:

    I actually had a similar issue not too long ago. The apartment I just moved into is the black hole for cell reception. I haven’t met a person that gets a signal inside.
    After three calls to T-Mobile, I got someone who was willing to help. While I did have to buy a new phone, they gave me the “new customer” price ($99) on the Blackberry Curve (even though I wasn’t eligible for the upgrade yet).
    I added their Hot Spot service so I could make calls over our Wifi connection. Sure, it’s $20 a month, but it allowed me to drop the number of minutes in my calling plan since I’m usually at work or at home, and have Wifi at both places.
    I guess I did end up spending around $100, but my cell bill is almost exactly the same amount it was before, I got a much cooler phone, and I can make phone calls for free over any unsecured wireless network.

  5. pegr says:

    We need true competition in the US cell market…

  6. darkened says:

    I think the moral of this story, all cell phone companies are inherently evil. IMO Tmobile is the least evil of them all. They actually provide a very quantity and quality of service for their phones, apparently their support not so much. I never once had to deal with Tmobiles support when I had my Sidekick 2 with them. I signed up, setup auto pay and never had to do anything afterwards.

  7. mmcnary says:

    Oh my god! 4 comments and no has blamed the victim yet.

    Why didn’t he just move to a different house?

  8. realwx says:

    Same as this guy, except I leave my cell phone near the window where it barely gets 1 bar of service.

  9. savdavid says:

    Look, the cellphone companies write the rules of the game and change them in the middle if they like. Until customers insist that the government becomes the referee to level the field, we will all be at the mercy and whims of the companies. Complain if you like but also write your congressman and senators. Most big corporations act this way in Bush’s America. Why, because they can and know they won’t be punished or regulated.

  10. evslin says:

    @mmcnary: That’s what he gets for living in Miami! DUH!

  11. semanticantics says:

    Whatever you do, DO NOT GET “HOT SPOT”. My best friend recently got this, and she gets drops CONSTANTLY. It’s like a time machine going back 10 years in call reliability.

    I signed on for regular T-Mobile in October I believe. They did a check on my home address to see if I had service. Did you not go through this?

  12. HalOfBorg says:

    The ‘buy a new house’ suggestion is WAY over the top. Trying other services – maybe, but after the first service wouldn’t work, a tech should have come out and checked reception there. Where is Verizon’s “Can you hear me now?” guy when he was needed?

    My similar experience: Our old ISP offered broadband, but only as a WISP (wireless ISP, not same as wifi or cell), unless it was downtown business DSL. Much better than dial-up was, cheaper than cable, and Verizon had no room for another customer on DSL.

    Then connection started sucking, and after LOTS of changes and work, they came out and connected all new equipment to their laptop, on my second floor (line of sight to antennas on other end).

    They couldn’t even get pages to open most of the time, but radio link was still excellent (all bars on meter).

    They tried and tried, and failed. They say I’m in a radio ‘blackhole’.

    Now – the company DID offer to refund a whole YEAR if I’d drop them, and I SHOULD have just kissed the guy and went away, but then no internet at all. I also had severe anxiety and stuff then so I could not make any decisions…. damn.

    Then a spot opened in Verizon and I got in. $5 cheaper per month even. WAY faster.

    I just kick myself over that money though. Would have bought a TON of comcast…..

  13. vanilla-fro says:

    @savdavid: no, the government does not need to be involved in this, I don’t want to pay for that.
    Let the governement do whatever it is they are supposed to be doing before we give them more jobs not to do.

    People, we don’t need cell phones. The cell phone companies do need us to pay them though.

    I have a cell phone with the lowest amount of minutes and texts and you know what……I’m still alive and functioning like a normal human. We don’t need to be on the phone every minute of the day, sending pictures of everything to everyone, or texting people every minute of the day.

    Don’t let the cell phone companies take all of your money, I’m not saying to get rid of cell phones just get rid of the providers’ power over you. Hell get prepaid and if you don’t like the service you get you’re only out whatever amount you put in.

  14. grouse says:

    $18 is a lot, I don’t think anyone would be crazy to cancel over that.

    As for the victim in this case, did he have T-Mobile service initially? Did his address originally appear on the coverage map?

  15. nweaver says:

    This is partially why I went out of my way to get a phone without extending my contract when my previous phone died. I like my cellphone provider (Verizon), but I like knowing I can leave at any minute without an ETF.

    For GSM people (AT&T, Tmobile), its easy, just get an unlocked GSM from motorola, and stick your SIM in.

    For Verizon CDMA people, buy a PREPAID Verizon phone, and have the CSR at the store switch the prepaid account onto your old & dead phone, and your main account onto the new phone. Voila, a $53 cellphone with no contract extension.

  16. brandymb says:

    I would have cancelled over the $18 bucks, expecially if there have been other issues. We used to run a retail florist shop and the wire services often slipped in little unexplained charges to our bills and it was usually more of a pain to get them removed than it was worth. Think of it: $2.00 times 1000’s of customers.. get my drift?

  17. AT203 says:

    Well, typically under the Uniform Commercial Code there is an implied warranty of fitness. However, this can be waived in the contract, and you can be sure that T-Mobile disclaimed all warranties in their 30 page contracts…

  18. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    @grouse:

    That’s what I was wondering as well. I live in the boonies & can’t get cell service at my house from *any* mobile provider. But, I know this & wouldn’t bitch @ AT&T (my cell company) for not providing service.

  19. RvLeshrac says:

    @AT203:

    You don’t need a warranty.

    FTC & FCC have this covered. No service, no contract. Simple as that.

  20. bradanomics says:

    This is why during the first (I think couple of weeks) in a cell phone contract you can get out. Most cell phone companies have a trial period in which you can get out if you are not happy with the coverage you receive. Keep in mind that you usually have to pay for the minutes that you use, but this is why they have that period. I don’t fault the company at all on this. This was the customer’s fault.

  21. ianmac47 says:

    Why not just take the phone someplace where you are roaming (assuming you have free roaming), and make a whole lot of calls until TMobile offers to cancel your service for you?

  22. AlisonAshleigh says:

    @bradanomics:

    They don’t make it that easy.
    My cell didn’t work in the first house I had it in. I called and they said they were sending a tech out to fix it. (???) Still didn’t work. I called, from my house phone, because my phone would not work at ALL. They said the map they had, said my cell worked fine in the house. They’ll INSIST (T-Mobile, anyway) that your phone works, even if it obviously doesn’t.

  23. reighvin says:

    OK, so you had no service at home for 6 months? My question would be, was it always like that? That is the reason you are able to cancel your contract without the ETF during the first 2 weeks-30 day, depending on the carrier. If you have never had service, then I would lay the blame on you for not opting out sooner. If you had service, and it went away, I would blame TMobile since they obviously did something that downgraded their service.

  24. Coder4Life says:

    I don’t think they’ve ever gauranteed that a cell phone will work in an inside of a building. It’s always been gauranteed to work outdoors. Yes I understand that is a lot of b.s but that’s how it is.

    I could see if it doesn’t work in the area, that would make more sence.

  25. pylon83 says:

    I’m not sure that the fact it doesn’t work at your home is enough to get out ETF-Free. Regardless of the provider, there are going to be some dead spots. Unfortunately, one of those dead spots is your home. So long as it works everywhere else around town, I think T-Mobile has held up their end of the bargain. The contract doesn’t say “it will work 100% of the time, in every single place”. Even their coverage maps say there may be some dead spots. What if it worked at your home, but your work was a dead spot? Or your favorite coffee shop? You can’t expect them to let everyone out of their contracts because of dead spots that are expected to exist. The fact the OP’s dead spot is admittedly inconvenient is somewhat irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. Now, if the phone doesn’t work anywhere in the town in which the OP lives, it would be another story.

  26. bustachai says:

    I had this same issue with T-Mobile a few years back. I wanted the sidekick as soon as it came out; problem was, it turned out that I had no service anywhere near my apartment (and I live in the city).

    After a particularly helpful conversation with a CSR, during which I asked her if there were any avenues available for canceling service without paying the $200 fee, she mentioned that if I were moving to a country with no T-Mobile service, then I wouldn’t have to pay the $200 early termination fee.

    So I called back, explained that I was moving to Germany (at the time, there was no T-Mobile service there). The CSR needed an address in Germany (they said it was to send the final bill, even though I had the charges coming to my credit card).

    I gave her the address of some random hotel in Germany, they terminated the contract, and I’ve been with Verizon ever since.

  27. brendanm14 says:

    @nweaver:

    great advice for us Verizon users!!

  28. noremac says:

    This is hillarious, as i am currently going through the same isssue.

    I’ve been a customer for about 18 months now and have never had good, consistent service, especially in my home (i live in the burbs). also every 6 weeks or so my voice mail dies, or connects so someone elses’ voice mail.

    For the past 6 months i’ve had to simply give up and fwd this number to another provider, and recently that stopped working.

    Tmobile has been totaly uncooperative of just letting me out of this agreement, Its in my opnion that they have not lived up to their end of the agreement, but I’m not willing to put up with the hassel of them putting me in collection for the cancellation fee.

  29. alice_bunnie says:

    @vanilla-fro:

    Thank you! Well said.

  30. ElizabethD says:

    Wow. Will you guys sell me one of those Mr. T mobiles?

    Awesome, FOOLS!

  31. saltmine says:

    Here’s the deal. And this isn’t a problem specific to T-Mobile. I have the EXACT same issue with Verizon. My phone doesn’t work in my apartment. The company line is that while they guarantee service in particular areas, they don’t guarantee service indoors. They saw my record and noticed over 25 dropped calls in the current billing period alone.

    I had moved 6 months prior and had been having problems the whole time. They wouldn’t let me out of my contract that had less than 2 full months left on it. After 5 years of service with never a late payment. Here’s the thing – I told them that as soon as I moved I would go back to Verizon, since they do have the best service – but that I would need to switch for now. No dice.

    Now, I’m never going back, which will cost them a lot more than the $140 I’m giving them for 2 months of service.

    But as much as it sucks to say, they really can’t guarantee that service will work in your house. Different buildings are composed of different materials, and the majority of them were built without cellphone reception being an important factor. They should however, be able to offer to remedy the situation somehow, since it’s not the customer’s fault either.

  32. Curiosity says:

    I assume that you are bound by this contract (check this). [www.t-mobile.com]

    This contract is unfavorable to you, with arbitration, no class action, and a disclaimer of warranties (which could not apply to FL, but I would suspect it does).

    Note the shady statement in section 13 that states:

    “EXCEPT FOR ANY OTHER WRITTEN WARRANTY THAT MAY BE PROVIDED, AND TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, ALL SERVICES, PRODUCTS, AND THIRD-PARTY PRODUCTS ARE PROVIDED “AS IS”, “WITH ALL FAULTS”, AND WITHOUT WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMIT, WARRANTIES OF TITLE, MERCHANTABILITY, NON-INFRINGEMENT, OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, ALL OF WHICH ARE EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMED. YOU ASSUME ALL RESPONSIBILITY AND RISK FOR USE OF THE SERVICE OR PRODUCTS. WE DO NOT AUTHORIZE ANYONE TO MAKE A WARRANTY OF ANY KIND ON OUR BEHALF, AND YOU SHOULD NOT RELY ON ANY SUCH STATEMENT. ANY STATEMENTS MADE IN PACKAGING, MANUALS OR OTHER DOCUMENTS, OR BY ANY OF OUR DEALERS (EXCEPT FOR ANY WRITTEN LIMITED WARRANTY THAT MAY BE PROVIDED), ARE FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND ARE NOT WARRANTIES BY US OF ANY KIND. WE AND OUR OFFICERS, DIRECTORS, EMPLOYEES, AGENTS, DEALERS, SUPPLIERS, PARENTS, SUBSIDIARIES OR AFFILIATES (“T-MOBILE AFFILIATES”) DO NOT WARRANT THAT THE INFORMATION, SOFTWARE, PRODUCTS, PROCESSES, OR SERVICES WILL BE UNINTERRUPTED, ACCURATE, COMPLETE, USEFUL, FUNCTIONAL, BUG OR ERROR FREE. IF YOU RECEIVED A WRITTEN “T-MOBILE LIMITED WARRANTY” WITH YOUR PHONE, IT IS THE ONLY WARRANTY MADE BY US WITH RESPECT TO THE PHONE. IF APPLICABLE STATE LAW DOES NOT ALLOW THE DISCLAIMER OF CERTAIN IMPLIED WARRANTIES, THE RELEVANT PORTIONS OF THE ABOVE EXCLUSION MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU.”

    For those who don’t read contracts – you might want to start. The consequences of agreeing to such a statement is a disclaimer of your rights usually but not always (see those rights at [en.wikipedia.org]).

    Florida has adopted the UCC [law.onecle.com] , so unless something like a consumer protection statute or some other intervening law protects your rights (see [statty.co.pinellas.fl.us] ) the bottom line is ESCALATE/ NEGOTIATE and NEVER LET THEM SEE YOU SWEAT. I would however consult a decent attorney in Florida.

  33. siskamariesophie says:

    I have exactly the same issue as Evan does since moving to another state. I live in a concrete high rise which blocks the T-mobile signal, yet since my overall area of town gets great reception, T-mobile won’t let me out of our contracts. They suggested I go outside on the street to make and receive calls (I live high up). When I eventually talked to a supervisor and expressed my concerns about not even being able to make emergency calls (I don’t have a land line), she said that those are “discretionary concerns”. Up until my move, I was very happy with T-mobile’s customer service. As soon as my contract is up, or as soon as they change rates, I am dumping their ass.

  34. m0unds says:

    If the victim had coverage before and suddenly he no longer had service, then I can see where this complaint would be legitimate. If he bought a T-Mobile phone without researching or finding a way to try it first, or he moved to a new house with no coverage and expects T-Mobile to respect that, he’s a silly goose.

  35. Vinny says:

    Here’s what you do.

    Get a Hotspot at Home phone, put your SIM in it, and use the hell out of it.

    If you don’t pay for the add on, Hotspot minutes go against your regular plan.

    Problem solved.

    Secondly, when we activate customers, we’re required to do what’s called a PCC (Personal Coverage Check) for you. If your rep didn’t do that, you should be able to get out of your contract because of it. It’s worth a try.

  36. Buran says:

    @Vinny: That’s already been ruled out. Have another look at the letter.

  37. smoothtom says:

    In ’03, I moved to the middle of Ohio, where my provider at the time, AT&T Wireless (the former one) did not provide service. The whole area was missing from their maps. I had four months left on my two-year contract, and they simply would not let me out of it. I downgraded to a $20 or something plan and rode out my contract, picked up Verizon, and was never tempted to go with either Cingular or the “new” AT&T, even though they now offer service in this area.

  38. chili_dog says:

    @semanticantics: I have hot spot and it works great perhaps it’s a router placement/interference issue.

  39. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I don’t know if I can sympathize with this guy. As other commenters mentioned; 1) You have 30 days to cancel a cell phone contract without an early termination fee, 2) All cell phone companies have that crappy disclaimer that service is not guaranteed indoors.

    I’d suggest taking this to small claims and at least try to recover the costs of the new phone he had to buy and the cost of the monthly service he was never able to use.

    Also, I’d recommend trying Verizon for cell phone service. Verizon operates at the 800 and 1900 mhz chunk of the spectrum. The lower frequency has better building penetration, so he might be able to get signal in his house. He’ll have 30 days to find out, of course. :-)

  40. ShadowArmor says:

    I was able to get out of my t-mobile contract during the last month by buying out the remaining month, but I made them give me a credit for that month, so it cost me nothing.

    I sympathize with this person — I got fed the same lines, and I called every single time I got a dropped call. At least the OP has the benefit of T-mobile acknowledging that service isn’t being provided. In my case, the service was “just above the level where I could escape my contract”.

    But yeah — when service isn’t available in the area, you can legally get out of your contract with no ETFs. You just have to find a rep who can fulfill this demand for you.

    I’ve also wondered what would happen if you paid the ETF on a credit card, and then did a chargeback. You are well within your rights since they are charging you a fee unjustly, and your CC has vastly superior leverage to fight them than you alone do.

  41. Curiosity says:

    @LatherRinseRepeat:
    I think you forgot about the mandatory arbitration agreement.

  42. timsgm1418 says:

    amen, I can’t stand when people just say “let the government control it” somebody has to pay for them controlling it. Government is already way to involved in private business@vanilla-fro:

  43. shadow735 says:

    The only good thing about T-Mobile is Catherine Zeta Jones in their Commercials, now she is Hot!!

  44. crazyflanger says:

    hehe It’s a T Mobil…..I get it lol.

  45. rougebob says:

    Good news for you!

    We had the exact same issue that you are having now, no service at the house. They sold us on the wifi thing you referred to however we were not pleased with the service since as soon as we left the house we still had no service.

    We returned the wifi system and explained it was still lacking what a cell phone should be. After an escalation or two we were faxed a form to fill out which we faxed back. A few hours later none of our cell phones worked anymore and we had a zero balance, account closed.

    They will cancel you free of charge for this, its just a matter of getting the right person.

  46. Cowboys_fan says:

    I remember when i worked for t-mobile i had a similiar circumstance where the map shows coverage but the engineers state otherwise. At this point it becomes a judgement call. Most reps likely don’t want to take the chance of breaking policy so choose otherwise. I suppose speaking to a reasonable supervisor or executive customer service are the ways to go here. If you keep calling, eventually a rep will cancel for you.
    Also I’m sure you already spoke with retention because the slightest hint of wanting to cancel results in a transfer there. I know too that the policies are roughly the same now as then as I still have access to tmobile’s policies through my work as we are outsourcers working for multiple companies.

  47. jimconsumer says:

    Too many people care about your credit score. If the company is screwing you, cancel the service and refuse to pay. Let them send you bills. Let them send it to collections. Who cares. Tell the collector you don’t owe the bill because they refused to provide you service and that if they continue to harass you, you’re going to sue their a** off.

    Honestly, far too many people think if some big company says you owe $x, you have to pay $x. Screw them. They can’t force the money out of you and they’re not going to sue you over a couple hundred bucks (and if they did, prepare a good case against them and show up, they’ll probably lose). Let them trash your credit report, that would do most people a lot of good by forcing them to pay cash for everything in the future.

    As Dave Ramsey would say, stop worshiping at the alter of the great Fico. Then you can tell your mobile phone provider to go F themselves and there’s nothing they can do about it.

  48. noremac says:

    well said,

    putting the cancellation fee on my amex and then disputing the charge because the service sucked might be the solution in the short term.

  49. pylon83 says:

    @noremac:
    I’m not sure you could pull that off. You might be able to dispute the bill itself, but not the ETF. The ETF is a separate charge from the service. Once you authorize the ETF to be charged to your Amex, you probably don’t have grounds to dispute it unless they don’t fulfill the obligation related to that charge (terminating the contract).

  50. Petrol42 says:

    Hey JIMCONSUMER, your advice is great if you don’t care about being able to buy a house, car or anything else you’re going to borrow money for with a low interest rate. If your credit sucks, you are either not getting any loan or the interest is going to be up the yin yang. It’d be nice to pay cash for everything but we all don’t have high paying jobs that affords us to do so.

  51. Charred says:

    Hasn’t anyone learned the lesson of the Alltel ad campaigns? No matter which carrier you pick, you’ve picked a loser.

  52. benh57 says:

    hotspot @ home does NOT cost $20/month. It’s only $20/month if you want ‘free minutes’ while on wifi hotspots. If you just want to make calls over wifi, it’s free with a capable phone.

    Also, there is no reason NOT to get it. My choices are: have horrible mostly not working reception at home. Or have the ability to make calls over my wifi connection with a good signal. No brainer.

  53. RvLeshrac says:

    @pylon83:

    They’re not claiming that it is a dead-zone, though.

  54. 6502programmer says:

    @ bustachai:

    Uhh, how did T-Mobile say they had no coverage in Germany? T-Mobile is a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom.

  55. commorancy says:

    For reasons such as the above, I stick to T-Mobile prepaid only. I will no longer get suckered into long term contracts. Post-paid contracts need to go away. Unfortunately, the carriers make too much money on post-paid contracts, so it’s not going to happen anytime soon.

  56. tizod says:

    I had the same issue when I moved to New York. Coverage was fine outside my building but as soon as I entered my apartment…nothing. TMob was not very helpful with the problem so I posted an add on Craigslist offering my Blackberry Pearl for free for someone to take over my account. Less then a week later I transfered the responsibility of my account to someone who responded and I was done with them.

  57. bluesteel26 says:

    Its important to understand that cell phone towers don’t cover everywhere. This comes in play to a buyer beware, which is why many cell phone companies give you that trial period to test out service in your area.

    Your contract states the company will provide service within that providers area. However they do not guarantee service. Which is why if there are outages, change in Roaming partner contracts and other unforseen events you are not entitled to any reimbursement or free contract release.

    If you move away from tower coverage where your provider can’t reach then you are responsible for adhering to your original contract. The company is still providing service through their towers if you are not in range thats not their problem. Only if you are in a good area with their towers and they stop you from recieving a signal can you have the upperhand in this.

    If you want service in your area you should lobby to your local city hall about leasing a piece of land to the cell phone provider so they can build a tower.