Cell ser­vice at Rainier: Do you want to hear me now?

‘We spend too much time on cell­phones, tech­nol­ogy, on com­put­ers’

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

On a re­cent snow­shoe­ing trip on Mount Rainier, Nancy Spears brought her cell­phone along but was happy not to have cov­er­age: It gave her time to con­nect with her snowy sur­round­ings rather than her social media ac­counts. Spotty or no cel­lu­lar ser­vice has been the norm at the na­tion’s fifth old­est park south of Seat­tle, but that could change soon. Mount Rainier Na­tional Park is con­sid­er­ing pro­pos­als by two car­ri­ers to pro­vide cel­lu­lar ser­vice in the park, set­ting off de­bates about whether peo­ple en­joy­ing the park and sur­round­ing wilder­ness ar­eas should have ac­cess to calls, Face­book, Instagram and other tech­nol­ogy while com­muning with na­ture.

Ver­i­zon Wire­less and T-Mo­bile have ap­plied for right-of-way per­mits to in­stall telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment on the vis­i­tor cen­ter at Par­adise, one of most heav­ily used ar­eas in the park. No tow­ers would be built; an­ten­nas would be lo­cated be­low the roofline of the vis­i­tor’s cen­ter. There are cur­rently no cel­lu­lar in­stal­la­tions in the park. Some say cell ser­vice would im­prove safety and pro­vide a con­ve­nience for vis­i­tors. Oth­ers don’t want it, say­ing the pro­lif­er­a­tion of phones will dis­tract from the nat­u­ral beauty of the sur­round­ings.

Spears, a Seat­tle nurse, has mixed feel­ings. For safety rea­sons, she’d like to call for help if needed. But the 33-year-old, who grew up with the in­ter­net, also ap­pre­ci­ates hav­ing time away from it. “The in­ner part of me just says peace and quiet and the beauty is all we need,” Spears said. “But cell­phone use kind of drives us now, so it’s kind of what ev­ery­body is on all the time, in­clud­ing my­self, so as much as I’d like to say peace and quiet there’s also part of me that wants re­cep­tion.”“Part of me fights that sec­ond im­pulse to check, but I do re­ally like being free from it,” she added.

Nice to be dis­con­nected

Park of­fi­cials say they are re­quired by fed­eral law to con­sider all telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­pos­als on park lands. “We can cer­tainly see both sides of it at the park. It’s a com­pli­cated is­sue,” said Tracy Swartout, park deputy su­per­in­ten­dent. “My be­lief is that it will im­prove safety on the whole.” Park rangers use ra­dios for com­mu­ni­ca­tion, but other search teams and law en­force­ment may not have them, she said.

Diane Lynch, 58, fa­vors en­abling cell ser­vice, par­tic­u­larly af­ter com­ing upon an in­ci­dent where a man had fallen through snow. When she and her hik­ing partner heard the cries for help, her friend ran to the scene while she ran to­ward a climb­ing class where a moun­tain guide had a ra­dio and was able to call for help.

Lynch said peo­ple who want a wilder­ness ex­pe­ri­ence can choose to leave their cell­phones be­hind. “Any­body has that choice if they want to have a true wilder­ness ex­pe­ri­ence. Leave it in your car,” but phones can help those who are lost or in­jured in the back­coun­try, she said. Daniel Zilc­sak, 38, also sup­ports cell ser­vice as a mat­ter of safety though he’s re­lieved the pro­posal doesn’t in­clude a vis­i­ble cell tower or an­ten­nae.

“Yes, peo­ple can abuse it and talk on the phone loudly, dis­turb­ing other hik­ers, but they can talk loudly with a partner too, or they can play loud mu­sic too, re­gard­less of whether they have an In­ter­net con­nec­tion or not,” said Zilc­sack, who writes a blog about his out­door ad­ven­tures. —AP

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