Officials at Yellowstone National Park are in talks for a $34 million fiber optic line that would bring increased Internet connectivity to the home of Old Faithful. If the plan goes through, CenturyLink would install the line, running it through Grand Teton National Park and into Yellowstone.
According to the Associated Press, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) obtained details of the plan through a public records request. Jeff Ruch, the advocacy group’s director, said that increasing bandwidth would only increase distractions when people should be focusing on the park’s scenery.
“Yellowstone’s original decision to allow cell towers is like a gateway drug, hooking the park to an unending electronic mainline,” Ruch said in a statement. “This will only help visitors avoid Yellowstone’s natural wonders by keeping their noses buried in ever-present and ever more engrossing devices.”
The proposed fiber optic line seems to be at odds with the park’s wireless plan, adopted in 2009, which said, “Wireless communications in Yellowstone will be allowed in very limited areas to provide for visitor safety and to enhance park operations.” But Yellowstone technology chief Bret De Young has stressed that the coverage wouldn’t be all-encompassing so visitors could watch Netflix in the wild; instead, it would be limited to five developed areas inside the park.
News of the CenturyLink expansion comes ahead of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary in 2016, which the NPS is using as an opportunity to tell visitors to “Go Digital.”
“People are dependent on wireless, they’re dependent on cellular—a mode of communication and activeness that is different from what the National Park Service has provided previously,” spokesperson Alexandra Picavet told the AP.
While CenturyLink hasn’t formally applied for the Yellowstone project, the company has asked that if the project goes ahead, the Park Service and other companies cover most of the costs.