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Health, Science & Environment

Is High-Speed Mobile Data Necessary in National Parks?

Dan Bammes
Lower Falls, Yellowstone National park

  A national environmental group is raising concerns about proposed plans to upgrade mobile phone service in Yellowstone National Park. 

The group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility argues there’s just no need for high-speed mobile service at Yellowstone.  Executive Director Jeff Ruch says the Park Service shouldn’t have to pay for the kind of infrastructure needed for streaming movies.

“Yellowstone and all these other national parks have billions of dollars of backlogged infrastructure needs," Ruch tells KUER, "everything from sewers to roads to bridges to collapsing visitors centers, crumbling restrooms.  So the idea that they would invest in going from 3G to 4G just strikes us as completely misplaced priorities.”

While no similar plans for Utah’s national parks have been put forward, David Nimkin with the National Parks Conservation Association says there might be situations where it would be appropriate – allowing interpretive programs to be streamed to mobile phones, for example.

Nimkin tells KUER, “We would look at any kind of development case-by-case, looking at visual impact and certainly looking at the challenge or proposed cost that might be assumed by the Park Service and looking at the corollary damage that might be done.”

That damage could include digging up roads for fiber-optic cables and building new cell towers.

Nimkin says any new proposal for Utah’s national parks would have to go through an environmental review process that would involve public comment.  That process has already been finished at Yellowstone.

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