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.
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.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is urging the park to reject the applications, saying coverage maps show that signals will spill deeply into park wilderness.
The Maryland-based national group says park officials should do more to protect the wilderness character of a park that is designated 97 percent wilderness.