Yellowstone losing battle against cellphones In this Aug. 3, 2016 file photo, a herd of bison grazes in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park in Wyo. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)
Yellowstone losing battle against cellphones
Lexile

Adventure seekers encounter untamed wilderness when they enter the backcountry of Yellowstone National Park. Howling wolves. Deadly grizzly bears. Steam-spewing geysers. The setting is seen nowhere else on earth.
 
But is it a refuge from ringing cellphones? Not so much.
 
In the popularity contest between Yellowstone's natural wonders and on-demand phone service, park administrators appear to have lost ground on a 2009 pledge. That was to minimize cellphone access in backcountry areas.
 
Signal coverage maps show calls can now be received in large swaths of Yellowstone's interior. These include the picturesque Lamar Valley and other areas. Until recently, they were out of reach.
 
The maps were obtained by a Washington-based advocacy group. It is Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. For years, the group has fought against new telecommunications infrastructure in Yellowstone. It is the first national park in the U.S.
 
Their release comes not long after lawmakers in the U.S. House introduced a bill. It would allow even more cellphone towers and similar structures on public lands.
 
Ken Sinay operates the Yellowstone Safari tour company. He runs nature tours in the park's backcountry. He has been there for two decades. He said phone signals became far more prevalent in many parts of the park.
 
His customers typically arrive to get away from modern-day distractions. But some are unable to resist the lure of phones. They take business. They call home. They check on their dogs.
 
"It's a real drag at Artists Point," Sinay said. He was referring to a famous overlook. It is near Yellowstone Falls. "While people are trying to enjoy themselves, somebody's on their phone waving their hands and gesturing. And walking around in a circle."
 
Yellowstone technology chief Bret De Young acknowledged the occurrence of "spillover" cellphone signals into backcountry areas. But he suggested the coverage maps exaggerated the quality of coverage in parts of the park.
 
In 2009, Yellowstone issued a wireless and telecommunications management plan. It said cellphone coverage "would not be promoted or available along park roads outside developed areas. Or promoted or available in any of the backcountry."
 
"No cellphone service will be allowed in the vast majority of Yellowstone," park officials said when the plan was adopted.
 
PEER's executive director is Jeff Ruch. He said the park had failed to meet those goals. Instead, it has ceded its telecommunications program to companies that wanted to offer blanket coverage.
 
"The ability to disconnect, the serenity value of that, is a park resource that they've given away without a thought," Ruch said.
 
De Young said it is not the intent to cover backcountry areas. And the park is taking steps to limit cell service.
 
That's being done with the installation of new antennas. They direct signals more precisely. That means cellphone services are limited mainly to the small communities and campgrounds in the park.
 
Two of the park's five cellphone towers now use those specially aimed antennas. De Young said a third is due to be converted. That should occur this fall.
 
A cellphone coverage map was provided by the park. It shows that the signals extend beyond targeted areas.  But they lose signal strength as the distance from the communities and campgrounds increases.
 
"This will allow the service providers to keep up with new phone technology while limiting unintentional coverage areas," De Young said.
 
The House legislation seeks to encourage even greater cellular and broadband coverage within national parks and other public lands. The measure was written by California U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman. It is known as the Public Lands Telecommunications Act.
 
It would impose rental fees on telecommunications companies with cell towers on public lands. Money raised would be used by the U.S. Interior and Agriculture Departments. They would obtain more communication sites. And, they would take other steps to foster greater coverage.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why do people walk in circles when talking on cellphones?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (13)
  • haileylange-dia
    10/17/2016 - 08:53 a.m.

    They could be multitasking, like cleaning while on the phone, to feel less guilty about spending time on the phone. Or just moving around to feel like they're not being as interrupted by just sitting there. or In my case... I just get bored of sitting in one spot.

  • jacobv1-ebe
    10/18/2016 - 02:34 p.m.

    They are trying to get better signal.

  • christianb-ebe
    10/18/2016 - 02:38 p.m.

    This was a cool article about Yellowstone but not having phones is something that is not going to happen

  • brynnh-ebe
    10/18/2016 - 05:55 p.m.

    People are walking around trying to find cellular service.

  • averym-ebe
    10/18/2016 - 06:20 p.m.

    Because they are looking down at there phone and don't know which way there going or what is going on in life. So they walk around in circles.

  • emmac-ebe
    10/18/2016 - 10:05 p.m.

    People walk in circles when talking in cell phones because they are not foucused on their surroundings and they feel as if they are standing in one place because they are focused on the other person's voice. People also walk in circles when talking on the cell phone because the movement of the air blowing past their ears could block out some of the sound that is around them. Walking in circles could make them calmer aswell.

  • jaydeng-nas
    10/20/2016 - 09:49 a.m.

    People walk in circles while they're on the phone because it helps them concentrate on talking to whoever.????????????

  • anabethb-nas
    10/20/2016 - 09:55 a.m.

    I do not think you need cellphone service out there because you just need to sit back, relax, and watch the beautiful surroundings. And I think if you want to do what he said like calling, texting, and ignoring your surroundings on a nature ride out there just don't go!

  • zeegwana-ebe
    10/20/2016 - 02:12 p.m.

    We walk in circles when re are on our phones because it helps us concentrate on whoever we are talking to.

  • ericas-ebe
    10/20/2016 - 02:17 p.m.

    I think people walk in circles while there on there phones because they don't have any thing else to did or they get nervous.

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