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People living in Rockbridge County say they don't have cell or landline phone service

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ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY (WSLS 10) - People living in a rural part of Rockbridge County say when bad weather rolls in, their phone lines go out.

With no cell phone service, it poses a major problem for calling 911 in an emergency.

According to Barry Deacon, who has lived there for more than 60 years, the phone lines began to go out three years ago.

He says he's contacted the phone company, Century Link, several times about the issue, but it hasn't been addressed.

Now, he's worried if the old infrastructure isn't replaced soon, it could cost someone's life.

Deacon lives a peaceful life in the woods of Rockbridge County, miles from even the nearest paved road, but it wasn't until he picked up his phone and didn't hear the familiar dial tone that he realized just how fragile his link to the rest of the world really is.

"You pick up, and it sounds like an open line, nothing at all," said Deacon.

Deacon investigated some of the infrastructure around his house.

"Some of the line has been in for fifteen years and is showing signs of corrosion," said Deacon.

He called his provider, Century Link, and received even more troubling news.

"I was also told that they found bird nests in junction boxes. I was also told that they found snakes in junction boxes. Basically, the bottom line is the system is outdated and wore out," said Deacon.

That was three years ago.

He says the lines have gone out hundreds of times since then.

"If it was once or twice, it'd be one thing, but over a period of three years and this is just ongoing. Once a week or so they're having a problem, so it's just really bad," said Jim Bollinger, pastor a the nearby Mount Horeb Methodist Church.

Bollinger says he worries about the people in this community, many of whom are elderly and have health problems.

"It's not like there's a back-up plan if 911 doesn't work on their landline," said Bollinger.

"We have no cell service, it's very sporadic. So you have to get in your vehicle and drive. Hopefully you can find someone who has cell service or a landline to be able to report the problem," said Deacon.

Rockbridge Emergency Services Director Robert Foresman says he's concerned about the situation, in a county that largely relies on traditional phone connection.

"We do have very limited cell coverage in some areas, so it's very important that these landlines work," said Foresman.

Deacon says he's moved on from calling customer service and is taking more steps to make sure the problem is dealt with.

"I have contacted my State Representative, and he has contacted Century Link, and... we will be sending a petition to the CEO, President in Monroe, Louisiana," said Deacon.

WSLS 10 did reach out to Century Link, and was told the company would need more time to review the complaint before making a response.

Meanwhile, Deacon says he has even reached out Verizon, telling representatives there that he is willing to have a cell tower placed on his property to improve reception in the community.

He hasn't heard back on that request.