Yellowstone's cell phone coverage expands despite plans to limit it

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) Yellowstone National Park Administrators are under fire after a Washington D.C. advocacy group discovered cell phone coverage is available throughout the park.

This comes after a 2009 pledge by Yellowstone to minimize cell service in back country areas of the park.

"It changes really how people relate to and experience wilderness if you're never in the wild, you're always connected," said Jeff Ruch, the executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Ruch was able to get his hands on signal coverage maps for two of Yellowstone's five cell phone towers.

"From what we understand more than two-thirds of Yellowstone national park has cell coverage which means even some of the remote parts of the park you can download movies, stream music, you can hunt for Pokémon," Ruch said.

In 2009, Yellowstone issued a wireless and telecommunications management plan that said cell phone coverage "would not be promoted or available along park roads outside developed areas."

“What we are finding out now is that is just not true. It's going extensively into the back country and the park has taken no steps to limit coverage," Ruch said.

Yellowstone acknowledges cell signals unintentionally spill over into the back country and that these maps don't tell the whole story.

In a statement they say, "Actual service areas are difficult to map due to the topography of Yellowstone. Coverage maps provided by carriers are based on computer models and often include areas with poor coverage, giving the appearance of greater service than there actually is.”

Yellowstone administrators say the park is now taking steps to limit service to the developed areas by upgrading older antennas.