Controversial Plans to Upgrade Cellular Connectivity in Yellowstone National Park

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Yellowstone, cellular, selfie
Yellowstone selfie. Credit: Yellowstone

Cellular phone service in Yellowstone National Park will see improvements this summer despite criticism from some that increased connectivity takes away from the serenity of the country’s first national park.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports park Superintendent Dan Wenk recently signed off on a telecommunication improvement project that includes upgrades to wireless infrastructure at Mount Washburn and Grant Village with new towers at Canyon Village and Lake.

The project, first proposed last year, would add to wireless infrastructure already on the tower and would multiply the park’s wireless capacity by 38 times — from about 12 megabytes per second across four towers to 600 megabytes per second, according to Bret De Young, the park’s chief of telecommunications.

Bret De Young, the park’s telecommunications chief, says the Verizon Wireless project will improve the speed of wireless service, but won’t go so far as to allow streaming movies. He says people want to be able to check hotel reservations and the improved service is vital for park workers to keep in touch.

Rainbow on the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River

The national group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) says the expansion “further marginalizes national park policies that called for protecting soundscapes, pristine vistas and serenity values.”

“Hiking and communing with nature have become secondary at Yellowstone to sending selfies, receiving texts and playing online games,” said Jeff Ruch, PEER’s executive director. “The park’s telecommunications planning has been completely captured by Verizon, CenturyLink, and AT&T.”

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