National Park Wireless Resources:
Using a cellular phone in national parks and forests can be contentious.
Many park visitors feel that staying connected in the park is as necessary as it is everywhere else in their daily life. Then there are those that believe that our national parks provide an escape from everyday life and should not have all the trappings of an urban environment, especially when it intrudes with ringing phones, people talking loudly and not treating the wilderness as a sacred place.
There are convincing arguments both for and against wireless availability in national parks.
The side that thinks national parks should have total wireless coverage refer to the life-saving aspects of cellular phones and the benefits to lost hikers. Those who think our national parks should be wireless-free feel this is the last refuge from civilization...that it is an environment that cannot be enjoyed unless we can remove ourselves from our technology-based lifestyle and reconnect to our natural roots. Opponents also refer to the historically low rates of injury and death that has not been meaningfully reduced with the availability of wireless devices.
They have allowed new wireless services at a very slow and deliberate rate. Most parks, especially Yellowstone National Park, have made a review of existing technology facilities, cataloged their inventory and made recommendations for public and governmental review. The result, in most cases, is that the Park Service has followed a de facto moratorium on new wireless facilities and has permitted wireless infrastructure only in areas where facilities already exist. Their recommendations also include a reduction or relocation of some cellular installations, especially where they are visible to park visitors. Also, the Park Service has restricted any new or relocated facilities to provide no more cellular coverage than is already available and no service can be expanded into designated Wilderness areas. In the opposing view, the Park Service has not enforced their own policies and rules very closely and many cell sites have been installed in a manner that does not adhere to the spirit of the Park Service objectives of balancing technology needs with aesthetic desires.
Most cellular coverage in national parks is provided by cell sites outside the borders of each park. Such service is limited by topography and elevation. This means using cell phones along rivers and valley trails may be impossible, while standing in a high location with a great view may provide excellent coverage. Some park lodges and commercial facilities offer Wi-Fi which can also be used for Voice and Text communications. These facilities are provided by park concessionaires and not by the Park Service itself. There are parks with only a few cell sites within park boundaries and there are many with none.
The Park Service also has a new community of wireless users to consider:
Many National Park Service employees desire good cellular service even more than park visitors. Like other employers, the NPS must compete for good workers and many of them have become dependant on good communications and access to data.
We wouldn't mind seeing more wireless coverage in all of our parks, but...
Unfortunately, because we also experience so many inconsiderate wireless users, we see the benefit of limiting wireless accessibility. We hope you and your family will exercise a certain amount of discretion in your wireless usage and enjoy our national parks for their real benefit: a true getaway from our daily lives, not just more of the same with a nicer backdrop. At least put your ringer on silent, and text your friends instead of talk.