NPS proposes expanded cell phone coverage in Yellowstone

There is nothing more irritating than viewing one of the many wonders of Yellowstone National Park and having your peaceful contemplation interrupted by a pinhead on a cell phone loudly discussing that day’s stock prices or next week’s television schedule.

Be prepared for more interruptions if a plan to add more cell-phone towers and new wi-fi coverage to Yellowstone National Park is implemented. Currently cell-phone coverage is limited to the Old Faithful area, Grant Village, Canyon Village and Tower-Roosevelt (though the signal at Canyon Village and Tower-Roosevelt is iffy at best). It’s already on the annoying side; hang out in the Old Faithful Inn lobby long enough and you’ll see why.

There are four photo/wi-fi proposals being floated by the National Park Service, ranging in impact from elminiating existing cell-phone service to adding it to campgrounds and every mile of the Grand Loop Road. The middle road is the one being recommended by the Park Service:

  • Limit new cell coverage to Lake developed area.
  • Relocate Old Faithful cell tower to a site near the water treatment plant when feasible.
  • Improve cell coverage at Canyon and Tower-Roosevelt with equipment upgrades at Mt. Washburn.
  • Address safety at Mt. Washburn by relocating antennas and microwave dishes from exterior of the historic fire lookout onto a newly constructed support structure. Equipment would remain in the existing space under the observation deck.
  • Remove obsolete equipment and relocate cellular antenna from Bunsen Peak to Elk Plaza. Allow new infrastructure on Bunsen Peak to provide for an increase in capacity of the data transmission (backbone) system within the park. Power line to top of Bunsen Peak would remain in service to provide power for this potential use. Maintain landline/data system passive reflector, FM radio translation equipment, and replace equipment shed with smaller equipment cabinet-sized enclosure.
  • No cell phone infrastructure would be allowed in recommended wilderness, minor developed areas, or along park roads.

You can read the whole proposal here.

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like that big of a change. Adding cell-phone service to Lake isn’t a huge deal, and the folks springing for the most expensive lodgings in the Park ought to be able to use their cell phones at night. Similarly, And we love the idea of not having cell-phone service available along the Grand Loop: we already need to deal with distracted drivers searching for buffs and moose, and having the additional distraction of amateurs yapping on cell phones would be too much to handle.

As for wi-fi in the hotels (presumably for a fee): sure, why not. Checking one’s email seems to be a constitutional right these days, and having wi-fi would allow more kids to be more entertained in the evening.

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