You read that right: The National Park Service is planning on bringing high-speed Internet to every national park in the U.S.
Indeed, with its Centennial looming, the NPS is looking to mark a century of work by setting forth on a new path for the next century and beyond. And it’s no secret apparently, according to Jackson Hole News & Guide:
Shane Compton, the Park Service’s associate chief information officer, talked about the Internet plan in an interview this month with Federal News Radio.
Grand Teton National Park spokesperson Andrew White said the initiative should help in reaching the next stage of visitors.
“What [Compton] was getting at, and we would totally agree here, our centennial’s really all about connecting with next generation, that’s namely millennials,” White said, “Those millennials connect primarily through technology, and if we want to connect with them we need to meet them where we’re at.”
Compton said the Park Service wants to provide visitors more content about parks, landmarks and monuments through their smartphones and laptops.
Currently, both Yellowstone and Grand Teton offer Internet access in some form or other, so it remains to be seen how both parks will swing with the anticipated changes. And overall, Yellowstone has more telecommunication infrastructure than Grand Teton currently.
As of writing, Grand Teton has applied for a right-of-way permit, which would open the way for wireless and possibly even fiber-optic Internet connections in the park. That permit process is expected to take one to years. Meanwhile, Grand Teton is developing an app that will provide visitors a map of the park and basic information. It will start beta testing in 2016 and is expected to be available by 2017.
Yellowstone already has an app for smartphone users: a “Geyser App” that lists up-to-the-minute information on eruption times in the Upper Geyser Basin.
This move will undoubtedly have some up in arms, as such infrastructure seems anathema to the mission of preserving wilderness space. And really: what’s the point of trekking to either Yellowstone or Grand Teton if you’re just going to sit on your phone? Or watch cat videos in the backcountry?
Thankfully, neither Yellowstone or Grand Teton (or the National Park Service) are proposing to wire the backcountry. Internet access would be concentrated in already developed areas of both parks, as has been the course for several decades.