Yellowstone National Park Tourism File

Tourists take photos and cars drive through the Roosevelt Arch at sunset in Gardiner.

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The National Park Service is seeking feedback on a proposal to improve cell phone coverage in developed areas of Yellowstone National Park.

The project would require temporary traffic restrictions and reduced speed limits on park roads from April to November for three years while crews work.

Crews would install fiber-optic cable on nearly 200 miles of roads and remove five microwave radio reflectors from the park’s backcountry. No cell phone towers would be installed.

Work could begin in 2021. Diamond Communications would cover the initial costs of construction.

If approved, the project wouldn’t increase cell phone coverage in the park but would improve the quality of service in areas that already have coverage, according to the park. Officials estimate 8% of the park has cell phone service.

Comments on the Fiber Optic Line Installation proposal can be submitted on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment system or by mail until Oct. 21. After the comment period ends, officials will conduct an analysis of potential environmental impacts. The assessment will likely be completed in the winter of 2021.

Staff at Yellowstone National Park use a microwave radio telecommunication system with bandwidth that’s no longer adequate for business operations, park officials wrote. The system’s radio reflectors were installed in 1980.

All computer networks and telecommunications, including emergency calls, rely on the microwave radio system. Connectivity is unreliable and inconsistent, according to park staff.

The new fiber-optic system would provide park visitors, employees and emergency responders with better access to broadband internet, cell phone and computer network services. This could help staff and emergency responders conduct operations more efficiently, according to officials.

The proposal is part of Yellowstone’s Wireless Communication Services Plan, approved in 2009. The plan guides wireless telecommunications in the park. It calls for officials to facilitate efficient employee and emergency operations while preserving the park’s wild character.

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Helena Dore can be reached at hdore@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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