New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation — we’re squeezed more tightly together than folks in other states. Yet there are still numerous so-called dead zones where cell phone service is spotty or suddenly drops as you’re traveling down the highway.

According to Carolyn Schamberger, the public relations director for Verizon wireless, efforts are ongoing to expand coverage and add capacity “because of the tremendous growth in demand all over Jersey."

"People are using their smart phones for data more than they ever have before, for streaming video, listening to music.”

She pointed out demand is expected to continue to grow, so they’re working “with communities throughout New Jersey to ensure customers have the best wireless experience possible, but we know it’s not perfect so we continue to look for opportunities where we can enhance coverage, especially from a capacity standpoint.”

Schamberger said if a new cell tower needs to be built to expand coverage in a certain area, “there is a process, zoning and ordinances and all that kind of good stuff that we have to go through.”

Michael Darcy, the executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, said that is indeed the case, but many people may not realize cell phone companies are now required to complete certain coverage areas by the FCC. So if you’re in an area with spotty service, there could be a couple of reasons why.

“You need to ask if the company in the process of completing the coverage requirement of the FCC, or has the company said we’ve completed the coverage required by the FCC and that’s about as good as it’s going to get,” he said.

Darcy stressed “the old days of towns simply saying we don’t want any towers in our town are long gone; that just doesn’t apply anymore."

He added sometimes there may be electronic interference from another device nearby, or you may be having a tough time because of the position of your vehicle relative to where the cell tower is located.

"The first thing to do is find out from the carriers what is their coverage map, has it been completed? And are their future plans to do additional coverage there.”

Schamberger said because of the increased use of smart phones, tablets, health monitors and other devices in everyday life, there is more strain on the system.

To add more capacity, she said the company is expanding the use of so-called small cells: low-power radio access nodes that can be placed on light posts or electrical poles. But permission from local towns still must be obtained.

“It’s a process and we’re continuing to work on it,” she said.

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