The National Park Service (NPS) is examining the possibility of adding more WiFi and cell phone connectivity throughout the U.S. national park system. Such connectivity is minimal or nonexistent in some of the nation’s 410 national parks. Other parks, such as Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, have relatively good WiFi and cell reception in visitor centers and other developed parts of the parks, but poor reception on most of the trails. Cell phone towers are prohibited in national park wilderness areas, and those bans will continue to remain in place.
The NPS’s consideration of greater connectivity was partly prompted by the expressed desire of park visitors to make immediate posts of photos to social media websites. As Jarl Haugedal, a New York visitor to Rocky Mountain National Park, said to a reporter:
“This is good advertisement for the state itself, I mean you get to show everybody at home on your social media which brings people to your state, so I think it’s a great thing. You don’t look as much as you should at the nature itself, you probably look more at your phone, because you want to share with everybody else, but on the other hand, it’s definitely a good sales point for the state.”
Another consideration of the NPS is the benefit of cell phone connectivity for safety purposes. When walking outdoors in rough natural conditions, it would obviously be beneficial to be able to make emergency calls or texts should an accident happen.
The NPS has given itself no deadline for making decisions regarding new connectivity abilities for the various national parks. However, locations with new reception are likely to be limited to visitor centers, lodges, and other developed spots. In the words of NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis:
“I’m not suggesting—nor do I think it’s appropriate—that you have wireless connectivity on the Colorado River as you go down the Grand Canyon. But if you’re on the south rim and you’re sitting on the deck of the El Tovar Hotel, then I think it’s perfectly appropriate that you might have wireless connectivity or at least be able to access your Facebook page and upload your photos.”