MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS – The National Park Service has signed a No Significant Impact finding for an environmental assessment to improve telecommunications systems in developed areas of Yellowstone National Park. FONSI was approved in 2021. Although the environmental review process was completed last year, the park continued to assess other impacts and needs of this important project before its implementation.
The selected action described in the FONSI enables the installation of 187 miles of fiber optic cable in previously disturbed areas along park roads. Work on the applicant, Diamond Communications LLC, is not permitted to commence until a right-of-way permit has been approved and issued. The park is evaluating the issuance of a right-of-way permit this year and, if approved, work will begin in the spring of 2023.
The park’s existing microwave radio system was originally installed between 1979 and 1990. The telecommunications and data services carried over the system are highly unreliable and do not adequately meet the park’s communications needs. emergency, operations and other forms of communication. The telecom service provider repaired the current system a total of 66 times in 2021.
Installing fiber along the highway corridor will allow the park to remove 25 outdated and obsolete telecommunications equipment currently located at many mountain peaks and backcountry sites, while dramatically improving connection speeds needed to park management and operations.
The park encouraged public comment on this project in October 2020 and March 2021 and received a total of 288 pieces of correspondence. All substantive comments received during comment periods were considered during the decision-making process.
Additional project details include:
Telecommunications systems may be considered utilities and, like other utilities, are permitted on NPS lands using the right-of-way permit process.
About 8% of the fleet is currently covered by cellular service, which is intended to provide service only in developed areas and not along roads or in the hinterland.
There are no plans to extend authorized cellular coverage beyond existing coverage areas.
Fiber will enable better quality of service in existing coverage areas.
This project is consistent with the Yellowstone National Park Wireless Communications Services Plan which was completed through an environmental assessment in 2009.
Plans are underway to move cell towers from the ridges to less visible sites in developed areas in Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs.
No new cell towers will be installed as part of this project.
The applicant will pay all initial construction costs.
Most fiber optic cables will be buried in 1¼” conduit along park roads.
Benefits for NPS staff, partners and visitors include:
Improved telephone networks, cell phones, park computer networks, and broadband Internet services to meet the needs and expectations of critical park operations, security and emergency services, and visitor information in the areas developed.