Yellowstone To Get 187 Miles of Fiber Optic Cable

Yellowstone National Park To Get 187 Miles of Fiber Optic Cable

Written by on February 16, 2022

After an extensive review and public comment period, Yellowstone National Park is moving forward with its plan to bring communications into the 21st Century.

The National Park Service (NPS) signed a Finding of No Significant Impact (F.O.N.S.I.) for an environmental assessment (EA) to improve telecommunications systems in the developed areas of Yellowstone National Park.

The selected action described in the F.O.N.S.I. allows for the installation of 187 miles of fiber optic cable in “previously disturbed areas” along park roads. Microwave radio system infrastructure is already in the same location.

Work by the applicant, Diamond Communications LLC, is not authorized to begin until a right-of-way (ROW) permit is approved and issued.

Although the environmental review process was completed last year, the park continued to evaluate other impacts and needs of this significant project prior to implementation.

Yellowstone Fiber Optic Cable Map

Courtesy National Park Service

The park is evaluating the issuance of a R.O.W. permit this year, and if approved, work would begin in the spring of 2023.

The park’s existing microwave radio system was originally installed between 1979-1990. Telecommunications and data services carried on the system are highly unreliable and do not adequately support the park’s needs for emergency communications, operations, and other forms of communications.

In 2021, the telecommunications services provider repaired the current system a total of 66 times.

The park sees fiber optic cable as an all-around improvement, which will enhance the park’s beauty by removing soon-to-be useless man-made fixtures.

Installation of fiber along the road corridor will enable the park to remove 25 (five reflector panels and 20 antennas) pieces of antiquated and obsolete telecommunications equipment currently located on numerous mountain tops and backcountry sites, while substantially improving the connection speeds needed for management and operations of the park.

The park encouraged public comment on this project in October 2020 and March 2021 and received in total 288 pieces of correspondence. All substantive comments received during the comment periods were considered during the decision process.

Courtesy National Park Service

For the die-hard Yellowstone pursuits, the experience will not change – the service will only be available in the same developed areas where it is now.

Additional project details include:

  • Telecommunication systems can be considered a utility and, like other utilities, are authorized on NPS lands using the ROW permit process.
  • About 8% of the park is currently covered by cellular service which is intended to provide service only in developed areas and not along roadways or in the backcountry.
  • There is no plan to expand authorized cellular coverage beyond existing coverage areas.
  • Fiber will allow for a better quality of service within existing coverage areas.
  • This project is consistent with Yellowstone National Park’s Wireless Communications Services Plan that was completed through an EA in 2009.
  • Plans are proceeding to relocate cell towers from ridgetops to less visible sites in developed areas at Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs.
  • No new cellular towers will be installed under this project.
  • The applicant will pay for all up-front construction costs.
  • Most of the fiber optic cable will be buried in a 1-¼” conduit along park roadways

Benefits to NPS staff, partners, and visitors include improved telephone, cellular phone, park computer networks and broadband internet services to meet critical park operations, safety and emergency services, and visitor information needs and expectations in developed areas.

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