Cellular phone service in Yellowstone National Park will see improvements this summer despite criticism from some that argue increased connectivity takes away from the serenity of the country’s first national park.
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 Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports.
Bret De Young, the park’s telecommunications chief, said the Verizon Wireless project will improve the speed of wireless service. He says people want to be able to check hotel reservations or use National Park Service apps on their phones. Improved service is also needed for park workers, he said.
Work at the Mount Washburn site has already begun, requiring park officials to close some trails to visitors.
The national group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER, opposes the expansion.
“Hiking and communing with nature has become secondary at Yellowstone to sending selfies, receiving texts and playing online games,” PEER executive director Jeff Ruch said in a statement.
In 2009, the park issued a wireless management plan that said cellphone coverage “would not be promoted or available along park roads outside developed areas, or promoted or available in the backcountry.”
The PEER statement said the work to improve cellular phone reception in Yellowstone “further marginalizes national park policies that called for protecting soundscapes, pristine vistas and serenity values.”