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Glacier National Park considers radio, cell signal upgrades

June 15, 2021 GMT

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Public review has begun for a proposal to boost radio and cellphone service in Glacier National Park in Montana, park officials said. The deadline to comment is July 11.

The proposal calls for upgrades to communications from the National Park Service, which uses outdated technology or can’t reach remote areas of the park, the Missoulian reported.

Currently, cellphone service is only available in the western part of the park at Apgar and the eastern part of the park because of commercial cell towers outside the park borders.

“While recognizing that national parks provide disconnected space for many visitors, the plan also proposes a strategy for commercial cellular and/or internet access for public and NPS use in certain developed areas,” such as Many Glacier, Rising Sun, Two Medicine and Lake McDonald Lodge, park spokesperson Gina Kerzman said.

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The proposal would prohibit large-scale cell towers and commercial telecommunications gear in the backcountry, despite visitors relying more on internet access.

“Glacier uses the internet to provide the best possible and latest information to visitors, and visitors need to be able to access that information for trip planning and to stay updated on current conditions such as unanticipated road, trail and campground closures,” according to the environmental assessment. “Connectivity is also important to off-duty employees and their families to meet daily needs that are increasingly dependent on internet access, such as paying bills and accessing bank accounts.”

Signal strength would be limited as much as possible to the four developed areas mentioned in the proposal, Kerzman said, although some spillover might be unpreventable.

“We can’t say for sure you wouldn’t be able to get cell service across the road or out on the lake,” Kerzman said.

But the plan does not foresee visitors being able to get signals along trails or more interior sections of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.