Image: Sen. John McCain with his wife Cindy
J. Scott Applewhite  /  AP
Verizon delivered a portable cell phone tower free of charge to John and Cindy McCain's ranch property after an online request from Cindy McCain's staff.
updated 10/16/2008 11:54:16 AM ET 2008-10-16T15:54:16

John McCain, a senior member of the Senate committee that oversees the telecom industry, now has cell phone coverage at the family's ranch near Sedona, Ariz., following a request from his wife, Cindy, early in 2007.

The Washington Post reported the story on its Web site on Wednesday and McCain's presidential campaign denounced it in the hours before the final presidential debate.

The two cellular companies most often used by the campaign staff, Verizon Wireless and AT&T, provided the coverage at the ranch, which is in a remote canyon where reception is difficult.

In June, Verizon delivered a portable tower free of charge to the ranch property after an online request from Cindy McCain's staff.

The "cell site on wheels" is ordinarily reserved for restoring service during emergencies.

AT&T brought in a tower in July.

The Post quoted AT&T spokeswoman Claudia B. Jones as saying that "you can't have a presidential nominee in an area where there is not cell coverage."

McCain is a senior member and former chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the Federal Communications Commission and the telecommunications industry.

"This story is a disgrace," said McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers. "The McCains went through the process that is available to anybody who subscribes to one of these cell phone companies to inquire about getting service."

He added: "At the end of the day, the Secret Service determined that they felt they needed the service and proceeded as well."

According to the Post, Cindy McCain offered land for a permanent cell tower. The newspaper said Verizon abandoned its effort to install a permanent tower in August.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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