High-speed Wi-Fi at national parks may soon be real

While rafting down the Grand Canyon, you see this view of the Colorado River from Nankoweap Trail; photo by Kara Hudgens

Visitors to the Grand Canyon may soon get much better cell service. Photo: Kara Hudgens

Part of getting outside and visiting national parks is unplugging from technology and doing a digital detox.

Sometimes it’s a mandatory detox, because there is simply no cell service or Wi-Fi, yet the National Park Service is looking to change that.

Shane Compton, the National Park Service’s associate CIO, told Federal News Radio that they’re looking into what can be done by 2018 to increase connectivity in the parks. Park officials hope to produce more online content to educate and engage visitors, so part of that push would require better connectivity at places like visitors’ centers and hotels.

However, Compton said, it’s important to do so in a conscious way, and they are asking officials at each national park for input.

“It may not be a better customer experience to hike out in the backcountry, but if you are in a visitors’ center or looking at a monument, that is where that might be beneficial,” he told Federal News Radio. “We are trying to make some conscious decisions on where it will be the best for the public.”

National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis told the radio station that park visitors are forging a connection to the parks online before even arriving, so expanding connectivity is a natural progression.

“IT is becoming more and more important for the customer experience. I can tell you the complaints we get when somebody goes into a park and finds a hotel doesn’t have high-speed Wi-Fi so they can do their work while they are on vacation,” he told the station.

They hope to bring better cell service to places like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park.

Compton also said that technology is getting cheaper and smaller, making it easier to increase connectivity in the outdoors.

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