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Cellphones Spill into Yellowstone’s Wilds Despite Park Plan

Legislation introduced last week in the U.S. House seeks to encourage even greater cellular and broadband coverage within national parks and other public lands

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Yellowstone Ringing Phones: FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2016 file photo, a herd of bison grazes in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park in Wyo. Park administrators appear to have lost ground on a 2009 pledge to minimize cell phone access in backcountry areas. Signal coverage maps for two of Yellowstone's five cell phone towers show calls can now be received in large swaths of the park's interior such as the picturesque Lamar Valley. - VOA

Adventure seekers encounter untamed wilderness when they enter the backcountry of Yellowstone National Park. Howling wolves. Deadly grizzly bears. Steam-spewing geysers as seen nowhere else on earth.

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A refuge from ringing cellphones? Not so much anymore.

In the popularity contest between Yellowstone’s natural wonders and on-demand phone service, park administrators appear to have lost ground on a 2009 pledge to minimize cell phone access in backcountry areas.

Signal coverage maps for two of Yellowstone’s five cellphone towers show calls can now be received in large swaths of Yellowstone’s interior, such as the picturesque Lamar Valley and other areas until just recently out of reach.

The maps were obtained by a Washington, DC-based advocacy group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which has for years fought against new telecommunications infrastructure in the first national park in the U.S.

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“The ability to disconnect, the serenity value of that, is a park resource that they’ve given away without a thought,” said Jeff Ruch, PEER’s executive director. “They have ceded the telecommunications programs to the companies.”

Yellowstone technology chief Bret De Young acknowledged the occurrence of “spillover” cellphone signals into backcountry areas, but suggested the coverage maps — released by the park to Ruch’s group under a public records request — exaggerated the quality of coverage in parts of the park.

In 2009, Yellowstone issued a wireless and telecommunications management plan that said cellphone coverage “would not be promoted or available along park roads outside developed areas, or promoted or available in any of the back country.”

“No cell phone service will be allowed in the vast majority of Yellowstone,” park officials said in a statement issued when the plan was adopted.

De Young said while it is not the intent to cover backcountry areas, the park is taking steps to limit cell service as much as possible to developed areas. That’s being done with the installation of more modern antennas that can direct signals more precisely.

Two of the park’s five cellphone towers now use those antennas, and De Young said a third is due to be converted this fall.

“This will allow the service providers to keep up with new phone technology while limiting unintentional coverage areas,” De Young said. The park service “will continue to limit cellular service to developed areas to the extent possible,” he said.

Legislation introduced last week in the U.S. House seeks to encourage even greater cellular and broadband coverage within national parks and other public lands.

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The measure from California U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman is known as the Public Lands Telecommunications Act.

It would impose rental fees on telecommunications companies with cell towers or other infrastructure on public lands. Money raised would be used by the U.S. Interior and Agriculture Departments to obtain additional communication sites and take other steps to foster greater coverage. (VOA)

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Want to Know What’s Happening Around the World Due to COVID-19? Use this App

This app to provide overview of COVID-19 pandemic globally

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COVID-19 app
Researchers have created a web application that provides an overview of the coronavirus pandemic across the globe. Pixabay

Researchers have created a web application that provides an overview of the coronavirus(COVID-19) pandemic across the globe, in a way that is more interactive than other maps and statistics.

The app titled ‘COVID-19’ is based on data from Johns Hopkins University in the US, the Danish National Serum Institute in Denmark, World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations.

“We began working on the app as a pet project, to deal with our boredom and inability to physically meet up. While Skyping one day, we wondered why we couldn’t find a graph that portrayed the evolution of coronavirus cases in Denmark,” said Phillip Bredahl Mogensen from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, one of those behind the app.

According to the study, the app provides an overview of how COVID-19 is spreading and the number of people who have both passed away and recovered.

Statistics from every country on earth are available and readily compared. For example, in only a few clicks, one can see how Spain or Italy are faring with the pandemic compared to Denmark. They also said that this is the first app that attempts to estimate suspected numbers – as opposed to reporting back confirmed positives from the test result.

COVID-19 app
According to the study, the app provides an overview of how COVID-19 is spreading and the number of people who have both passed away and recovered. Pixabay

“With the help of Danish and South Korean mortality statistics, we are able to provide an estimate of how many people were actually infected 20 days ago,” explained Bredahl Mogensen.

“For example, on March 9, there were 92 confirmed cases in Denmark. We estimate that there were actually between 1,163 and 3,615 people infected. In other words, 10 times the number of people were infected as compared to the official statistics,” he added.

Also Read- Find Out How Google is Battling Coronavirus Misinformation

The researchers used South Korean COVID-19 mortality data because the country has been dealing with the epidemic for a longer period of time and because South Korea has broader and more precise data sets than other countries.

“Even though the method is under development, and has yet to be validated, it presents an incredibly interesting estimate of the unknown extent of this virus,” the authors wrote. (IANS)