Yellowstone looks to add new fiber-optic broadband, replace 'antiquated' radio reflectors - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Yellowstone looks to add new fiber-optic broadband, replace ‘antiquated’ radio reflectors

“People exploring Midway Geyser Basin” (NPS / Jacob W. Frank)

CASPER, Wyo. — Yellowstone National Park said on Tuesday, Oct. 6 that the public is encouraged to comment on a proposal which aims to improve telecommunication services in the park’s developed areas.

“The proposal would also give the park the opportunity to remove antiquated telecommunication systems currently on mountain tops and from the backcountry as underground fiber within the road corridor becomes operational,” Yellowstone says.

The proposal calls for adding fiber-optic cable along 187 miles of the park’s roads. Rubber-tracked vehicles would be used to install the cable underground “within the existing road corridor, immediately adjacent to and/or directly into the roadbed.”

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The proposed project could begin as early as 2021. If the project moves forward, it would result in temporary traffic restrictions and speed reductions in work areas for three years between April and November.

Yellowstone says the proposal also calls for the removal of five microwave radio reflectors installed in the park’s backcountry since 1980.

“Currently, these reflectors are an essential component of the park’s microwave radio telecommunication system,” Yellowstone says. “The existing microwave radio system is the only means of telecommunication (telephone, 911 and computer networks) to the park. Each reflector is about 28 feet high and 24 feet wide.”

“Broadband over fiber-optic cable could replace this antiquated system. Due to extremely remote duty stations, recruitment/retention for both the NPS and its business partners is severely affected by a lack of consistent and reliable connectivity.”

Diamond Communications, LLC would carry out the fiber-optic work if the project is approved.

Yellowstone estimates that 8% of the park currently has cellular coverage.

“The proposal would not expand authorized cellular phone coverage areas in the park but would substantially improve coverage quality in existing developed areas,” Yellowstone adds.”This proposal is consistent with Yellowstone National Park’s Wireless Communications Services Plan.”

“No new cellular towers would be installed under this proposal.Diamond Communications, LLC. would pay for all of the up-front construction costs. Once installed, Yellowstone National Park could subscribe to the broadband services.”

The project would result in “improved telephone, cellular phone, park computer networks and broadband internet services that could meet critical park operations, safety and emergency services and visitor information needs and expectations in developed areas,: Yellowstone says.

Public comments can be submitted online or by mail until Oct. 21.

“Following this comment period, an environmental assessment (EA) will be prepared to analyze the proposal and its impact on the environment,” Yellowstone adds. “The EA will comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and other applicable laws and regulations. The NPS will release the EA for public review before making a final decision about the proposal. The EA is scheduled to be completed in winter 2021.”

“Comments must be received by October 21, 2020. Comments may be submitted online at: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/fiber or by mail. Comments will not be accepted by fax, email, or other means. Mail comments to: Compliance Office, Attention: Fiber Optic Project, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190.”

Yellowstone adds some considerations for people providing public comment:

-Bulk comments in any format submitted on behalf of others will not be accepted.

-Before including your address, phone number, email, or other personal information, be aware that your entire comment – including your personally identifiable information – may be made public at any time. You may ask us to withhold your personally identifiable information from public review, but we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Yellowstone