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Old 12-30-2017, 09:26 PM   #1
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Article on cellphone service in national parks

As Cell Service Expands, National Parks Become Digital Battlegrounds

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Old 12-30-2017, 10:05 PM   #2
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Very interesting article, Mike. To think that most people go to our national parks to escape technology and embrace nature, is probably only wishful thinking. Looks like there is no stopping the towers now.......
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Old 12-30-2017, 10:44 PM   #3
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Having spent months at a time in Big Bend NP, one of the most isolated parks in the lower 48, I am leaning slightly in favor of better coverage. One reason, as mentioned in the article, is better communication in emergency situations. At the moment the only 100% reliable communication is satellite phones. The Park radio system is just not as widespread and robust as it needs to be and obviously it not in line for funding for improvements. Yes, there will be more tourists calling for help with sprained ankles, but at the moment there are services like Spot that already provide a call for help service that cost not much more than a cell plan. There are very real dangers that can catch even the most prepared and experienced, and there are inconveniences that the novices might perceive as requiring assistance. The solution will have to be education and perhaps a rescue charge. We already warn drivers that a breakdown in the back country will run a minimum of $1000, and likely more. Obviously there is going to be a lot more discussion about this, but putting up a technology wall at the park entrance is not likely to happen.

Another reason - visiting Big Bend requires a multi-day commitment. With the exception of us retired folks, how many people these days can exist without a connection for a week or more? (And I'm not one to judge since I take a ham radio and arrange for DSL at our trailer.)

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Old 12-31-2017, 07:18 AM   #4
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I too think for the most part it is a good idea. If you want a break from being connected, and I do like that at times, you just don't use it. If you would rather catch up on things happening outside where you are than read a book, you can do that. This spread of technology is a certainty, and rather than complain we just need to figure out how best to work with, or around, it.
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Old 12-31-2017, 08:19 AM   #5
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Speaking of cell service, Apple is offering new batteries due to one of their update errors
No wait: Apple offers $29 replacement batteries immediately - Dec. 30, 2017
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Old 12-31-2017, 09:27 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alanmalk View Post
We already warn drivers that a breakdown in the back country will run a minimum of $1000, and likely more.
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Yikes! I didn't know that, but I'm not surprised. I'll certainly keep that in mind from now on. I love Big Bend, though, and I can't stay away.

As for cell service in national parks, I think it's a public safety issue, especially for the big, isolated parks like Big Bend, Great Basin, Olympic, etc. Not only would injured people be able to call for help, but also hikers and campers could receive text messages warning of sudden changes in weather, flash floods, etc. It could save lives.
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Old 12-31-2017, 09:51 AM   #7
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Half the time my cell phone doesn't work at my home or it only works if I stand outside facing a certain direction. Every year we go fishing in Canada and hunting in Northern Minnesota and do not have cell phone service . I have two choices stay home and hope my phone works or go fishing & hunting and know my phone won't work.
Lack of cell phone service is a slight inconvenience and not enough to worry about .IMHO.
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Old 12-31-2017, 10:15 AM   #8
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We've survived as a society without cell service for hundreds of years, and people have been camping, hiking, hunting, fishing etc for just as long.

Here in Texas the cellular coverage is basically 4G everywhere except for the more isolated areas of west Texas, like Big Bend.

It's nice to have cellular service in case of emergency, and there are plenty of stories of people being rescued because they had a cell phone. Having said that, the answer is not to ban cell towers in national parks and wilderness areas, but to turn your cell phone OFF. Works like a charm.

I think the effort to ban new cell phone coverage in these areas is not driven by environmental concerns if people are being honest. It's driven by the realization that society is addicted to their gadgets, and won't unplug voluntarily.
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Old 12-31-2017, 10:40 AM   #9
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we've survived as a society without cell service for hundreds of years, and people have been camping, hiking, hunting, fishing etc for just as long.

Here in texas the cellular coverage is basically 4g everywhere except for the more isolated areas of west texas, like big bend.

It's nice to have cellular service in case of emergency, and there are plenty of stories of people being rescued because they had a cell phone. Having said that, the answer is not to ban cell towers in national parks and wilderness areas, but to turn your cell phone off. Works like a charm.

I think the effort to ban new cell phone coverage in these areas is not driven by environmental concerns if people are being honest. It's driven by the realization that society is addicted to their gadgets, and won't unplug voluntarily.
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Old 12-31-2017, 11:13 AM   #10
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The last time I was in Big Bend, I stopped for a photo, and met a hiker transversing the park that had not been able to get cell coverage for the last few days. Because of weather, he was a couple of days behind schedule. He asked me to call his wife once I reached coverage & let her know he was OK. At noon that day she was suppose to call the park & have a search made for him if she hadn't heard from him.
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Old 12-31-2017, 11:22 AM   #11
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The last time I was in Big Bend, I stopped for a photo, and met a hiker transversing the park that had not been able to get cell coverage for the last few days. Because of weather, he was a couple of days behind schedule. He asked me to call his wife once I reached coverage & let her know he was OK. At noon that day she was suppose to call the park & have a search made for him if she hadn't heard from him.
Proof that cellular coverage is handy in the back country. Turn it on, make your needed call, turn it off. Can't do that if they ban the towers.
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Old 12-31-2017, 11:35 AM   #12
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The last time I was in Big Bend, I stopped for a photo, and met a hiker transversing the park that had not been able to get cell coverage for the last few days. Because of weather, he was a couple of days behind schedule. He asked me to call his wife once I reached coverage & let her know he was OK. At noon that day she was suppose to call the park & have a search made for him if she hadn't heard from him.
I believe your story and that you are telling the truth but parts of the story seem like something out of a Grimm fairy tale !
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Old 12-31-2017, 11:49 AM   #13
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I believe your story and that you are telling the truth but parts of the story seem like something out of a Grimm fairy tale !
Well I did call his wife, we had a great chat, although she still thinks he is nuts! He had already been out for 3 weeks...
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Old 12-31-2017, 01:14 PM   #14
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Having spent months at a time in Big Bend NP, one of the most isolated parks in the lower 48, I am leaning slightly in favor of better coverage. One reason, as mentioned in the article, is better communication in emergency situations. At the moment the only 100% reliable communication is satellite phones. The Park radio system is just not as widespread and robust as it needs to be and obviously it not in line for funding for improvements. Yes, there will be more tourists calling for help with sprained ankles, but at the moment there are services like Spot that already provide a call for help service that cost not much more than a cell plan. There are very real dangers that can catch even the most prepared and experienced, and there are inconveniences that the novices might perceive as requiring assistance. The solution will have to be education and perhaps a rescue charge. We already warn drivers that a breakdown in the back country will run a minimum of $1000, and likely more. Obviously there is going to be a lot more discussion about this, but putting up a technology wall at the park entrance is not likely to happen.

Another reason - visiting Big Bend requires a multi-day commitment. With the exception of us retired folks, how many people these days can exist without a connection for a week or more? (And I'm not one to judge since I take a ham radio and arrange for DSL at our trailer.)

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We used skype on our computer hooked up to wifi at the hotel in the Chisos Basin to make our calls and also got our emails using the same wifi.
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Old 12-31-2017, 02:30 PM   #15
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We used skype on our computer hooked up to wifi at the hotel in the Chisos Basin to make our calls and also got our emails using the same wifi.
It is a very uphill haul from the campground to the hotel or visitor center whether you walk or drive, but that is about the only internet service I could find.
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Old 12-31-2017, 02:37 PM   #16
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It is a very uphill haul from the campground to the hotel or visitor center whether you walk or drive, but that is about the only internet service I could find.
It's non-existent, by all accounts. I don't know if it was luck or freak atmospherics or what, but we did have 1or 2 bars of 3G coverage periodically at Chisos Basin once, using our Verizon MiFi in the Wilson cradle. Even posted a bit on the forum. Verizon's coverage map showed zero coverage within 70-80 miles of there.
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Old 12-31-2017, 02:40 PM   #17
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... but that is about the only internet service I could find.
There is (or was, 18 months ago) open WiFi at the Rio Grande Village gas station/laundry. Also at the main visitor center at Panther Junction.

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Old 12-31-2017, 02:48 PM   #18
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On my last visit to Big Bend two years ago some people could get cell service at Panther Junction. I think it was an AT&T tower they could hit, but I don't really remember. The ranger station there would let you use their wifi to check email, but since their wifi was for official business other services were blocked. I couldn't download podcasts, for instance.
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Old 12-31-2017, 02:51 PM   #19
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That's right-- now I remember I had wifi access at the store at Rio Grande Village as well, and Chisos Basin Lodge as was mentioned.
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Old 12-31-2017, 05:47 PM   #20
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On my last visit to Big Bend two years ago some people could get cell service at Panther Junction. I think it was an AT&T tower they could hit...
Yep, AT&T. The same tower is reachable from the first small hill after the pavement (300 feet) on the south end of the Old Ore road, about a mile or so outside the Rio Grande Village Campground. Ask your friendly campground host for exact directions!

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