Yellowstone Considers Expanding Wireless Coverage

The park is considering a $34 million fiber-optic line to improve bandwidth.
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The park is considering a $34 million fiber-optic line to improve bandwidth.

Bad news for fans of 'going off the grid:' Yellowstone National Park is in early discussions with CenturyLink over a $34 million fiber-optic cable project that would boost the park's electronic bandwidth and connectivity.

According to documents obtained by the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (and confirmed by the Associated Press), the cable would span Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and drastically improve existing wireless service for visitors in certain areas.

In 2009, Yellowstone restricted cell service to the immediate vicinities near Canyon, Grant Village, Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful.

Yellowstone technology chief Bret De Young told the AP that the proposed improvements would only strengthen existing coverage and not expand it to the point of "watching Netflix." "It's just about taking the infrastructure we have and making it work," he said.

Critics, however, remain wary. “Yellowstone’s original decision to allow cell towers is like a gateway drug, hooking the park to an unending electronic mainline,” Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility executive director Jeff Ruch said in a statement, adding that this plan will only increase electronic distractions among visitors and take away from the park’s natural wonders.

CenturyLink, which has not submitted a formal development application yet, is reportedly asking the Park Service, park concessionaires, Verizon and Union Wireless to fund most of the fiber-optic project.

Read more: Associated Press | PEER statement