Tuesday, January 22, 2013

National Parks Getting Ready to go 3G/4G

As cell phones, iPods and laptops creep steadily into every corner of modern life, America's national parks have stayed largely off the digital grid, among the last remaining outposts of ringtone-free human solitude.

That may soon change.

Under pressure from telecommunications companies and a growing number of park visitors who feel adrift without mobile-phone reception, the airwaves in such grand getaway destinations as Yellowstone National Park may soon be abuzz with new wireless signals.

Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, consider recent requests to install new telecommunications towers or upgrade existing ones.

Wireless supporters say more is at stake than the convenience of casual phone conversations. Cellular providers say new wireless infrastructure will boost public safety by improving communications among park rangers and emergency responders.

They argue that the ability to download smartphone applications that can deliver instant information on plants and animals will also enrich park visitors' experiences.
"Our customers are telling us that having access to technology will enhance their visit to wild areas," said Bob Kelley, spokesman for Verizon Wireless, which is seeking to install a new 100-foot cell tower at Yellowstone.

Rural communities that border the national parks also stand to benefit from enlarged cellular coverage areas.

On the other side of the debate, outdoor enthusiasts worry that bastions of quiet reflection could be transformed into noisy hubs where visitors yak on cell phones and fidget with electronic tablets, detracting from the ambience of such natural wonders as Yellowstone's celebrated geyser Old Faithful.