The US National Park Service was founded 100 years ago today, at a time when less than 35 percent of Americans had electricity at home. But as the years go by, more and more visitors to the parks are demanding access to technology, including ubiquitous cellphone and wi-fi access. And we’ve got the complaints to prove it.
I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the National Park Service to see what kind of official complaints visitors have filed about wi-fi and cellphone service. In an effort not to overburden the Parks Service, I only filed a request for three parks: Yellowstone, Joshua Tree, and Yosemite. But as some of the most popular parks in the country, they provide an interesting snapshot of what we might see elsewhere.
Surprisingly, there were fewer complaints than I was expecting. Granted, these are only the complaints that were bothered to be written down, not verbalized or shouted at park rangers from a passing humvee.
Some of the complaints are actually from normal humans making reasonable requests. One complaint comes from volunteers in 2013, who were concerned that Verizon cellphone coverage had been dramatically reduced since they’d started volunteering in 2011. As they point out, they rely on their phones to manage finances and contact family during the summer, so not having any reception is an issue. That issue, however, seems to be Verizon’s problem, not Yellowstone’s.
But other complaints, like the person who wrote from Yellowstone, “We have not found a Wi-Fi access in this park - Why not!? This is 2012 - Thank you!” seem at least mildly dickish.
The “b6" redaction you’ll see below is to protect the privacy of the people making the complaints and was made by the National Park Service. I haven’t bothered to transcribe the complaints because frankly I find many of them hard to read.
I’m also lazy. At least when it comes to transcribing the thoughts of people who are complaining about not getting wi-fi when they’re standing in the middle of a beautiful national park.
And for all you people who can’t go ten fucking seconds without an internet connection? Don’t worry. Lawmakers are working around the clock to increase funding to make free public wi-fi more available in our national parks.
I suspect that if I appealed the FOIA request response, as I do when I receive documents from say the FBI that seem thin, there would be plenty of other complaints hiding in drawers somewhere. But I’m not going to. The Parks Service already has to deal with asshole visitors complaining about not getting cellphone reception. They don’t need an asshole blogger complaining about not getting those people’s complaints.