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Greater Connectivity For National Parks Gets Disconnected


Plans to test expanded cellphone and Internet service in the National Park System appear to have been scrapped due, apparently, to a lack of interest.

It was just more than a year ago that National Park Service officials said they would, at the request of the National Parks Hospitality Association, test greatly expanded cellphone and Internet service at five to 10 units as part of a pilot program to see if visitors want that service and if the Park Service can both cut costs and provide more immediate information. 

However, when John Wessels, then director of the agency's Intermountain Office, quit the Service last August, no one stepped into his shoes to shepherd the project forward.

"I have confirmed that no further action on this project has been taken since our response to your earlier FOIA request on this issue in May of 2013," Charis Wilson, the Park Service's FOIA officer, said Thursday in an email to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which had sought the information. "Former Intermountain Regional Director John Wessels was the person who was going to work with NPHA on this project and no one has taken it over since he left the National Park Service in August 2013."

As envisioned by the NPHA, which represents park concessionaires, expanded Wi-Fi could possibly be a money-maker for concessionires, as they could charge a fee for access to service beyond a basic tier that links users to the park's website.

When the pilot program was announced in January 2013, PEER officials called the plan "a giant step toward ‘Disney-fying’ park interpretation, replacing rangers with corporate icons as your guides."

"Solitude values of parks will go by the board, as lodges, tents, trailheads and other park locations become just another place to fiddle with electronic devices," Jeff Ruch, PEER's executive director, said at the time.


The real question is would you not stay in a National Park because it does not have wi-fi. Probably not part of my decision making process. If it had it, it would be nice, if they charge for it, I would make that decision on a need basis.

If the room rate is reasonable then that's fine.

I expect wi-fi to be bundled in, just like I don't expect to have to pay extra for the room to have electricity and running water. [We're talking motel/hotel here - I understand there are cabins to rent with neither and that's a known other thing].

Still got 'em here, EC...;-)

If a hotel charges extra for wi-fi, I won't be back there again.

Then it looks like you won't be staying in any hotel soon. One way or another your are paying for wi-fi. Its either bundled in the price or you are paying stand alone.

(Kurt - what happened to the formatting buttons?)

If a hotel charges extra for wi-fi, I won't be back there again. At the prices they charge, the miniscule cost of running a wi-fi transmitter should be included along with towels and washcloths.

I'm generally not interested in going online while in a park but it doesn't bother me if other people want to. Someone reading their email is no worse than a lot of other behaviors we see every day. Why should people not be able to do it just because I don't want to?

I have been to many hotels that offer free Wi-Fi and others that charge extra. Those that offer it free look at it as a perk to attract customers, those that charge a fee do so because they can. Either way I do not see it as a big deal especially if they only charge a fee for "service beyond the park's web site"

Yes Lee, God forbid that concessionaires make money and the Parks benefit from it.

And for Jeff Ruch, if you don't won't to fiddle with electronic devices don't. Why do you feel that you must thrust your values, wants, desires on everyone else?

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