“Cell service in national parks has become a flashpoint in recent years as cellular providers compete to blanket the United States with coverage — even in remote, traditionally off-grid areas. On one side of this most modern of environmental debates stand wilderness buffs, who liken letting cell towers into national parks as no different from letting other forms of industrial development into these most sacred of wild and natural places. On the other side are those who say cell coverage in otherwise off-grid areas will help attract a new generation of (screen-addicted) young people to our parks and wildlands while simultaneously making it easier for first responders to save the lives of those who get into trouble in the backcountry.
“Cell phone towers have sprouted up in national parks across the country because the National Park Service lacks any coherent policy and instead lets telecommunications companies decide where and how many towers will be constructed,” says Jeff Ruch of the non-profit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which has been leading the charge against expanding cell service on public lands. “As a result, the incessant chirp of the cell phone can be heard in the wild backcountry as well as at iconic places like Old Faithful.””