Parks Canada plans to bring Wi-Fi to the wilderness

Banff National Park

Canada’s national parks and cottage country are traditionally a refuge for escaping modern life and unplugging from email and social media. 

But that retreat, which many of us drive hours for on summer weekends, is being threatened by a new plan unveiled by Parks Canada this week. According to an article in the Toronto Star, the national agency is hoping to create up to 50 wireless hot spots in its parks this year. Their further plans to treble that number in the next three years means that the “no service” signals we all relish in come summer will become fewer and further between.

According to the Star, Ontario’s provincial park authority has been experimenting with wireless Internet access since 2010, while Manitoba started installing Wi-Fi hot spots at its parks last year.

Parks Canada says their visitors wish to be able to stay in touch with work and friends, and right now, cellphone coverage in many of Canada’s parks and rural areas is patchy at best. But since Parks Canada’s announcement on Monday, there have been a number of negative reactions to their decision to make Wi-Fi hot spots available in areas were Canadians traditionally go to unplug.

Andrew Campbell, director of visitor experience with Parks Canada, explained to CTV that the wireless zones would be restricted to visitor centres and campgrounds.

As the average age of campers is increasing, Campbell told CTV that the agency is working to attract young urbanites into park areas. “What we’re trying to do is have it around the spots where people can write a digital postcard home, where they could in the morning pick up and take their digital subscription and read the newspaper when they’re around the campground,” he said.

While your kids might embrace the opportunity to play Angry Birds or connect with their friends over Facebook on a rainy day, there is some assurance for cottage goers: “There’s a lot of wilderness in Canada that will never be a Wi-Fi zone,” says Campbell.