Analysis: Parks Canada’s Wi-Fi plan a blow to serenity

PHOTO COURTESY PARKS CANADA

PHOTO COURTESY PARKS CANADA

Michael Platt, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:04 PM ET

CALGARY -- It's a desecration, pure, pixelated and simple.

Perhaps the next step for Parks Canada is installing windowless basements or corporate cubicles in the midst of the mountains, but for now, a wireless wilderness is plenty bad enough.

That's the plan, as backwards as progress sometimes seems.

"We're looking for companies that can provide Internet hot spots for parks across the country," said Andrew Campbell, vice-president of visitor experience for Parks Canada.

"If you look at Banff for instance, you might have a hot spot at the visitor's centre, one at the Cave and Basin and then a couple at the campgrounds."

And you thought burnt marshmallows and a leaky tent were the worst disasters that could befall a family camping trip.

The contract tender issued by Parks Canada states the agency wants to install wireless Internet hot spots in up to 50 locations this year, and triple that number by 2016.

With just 44 national parks in all of Canada, ranging in size from tiny gems like Point Pelee in Ontario to vast expanses like Banff and Jasper, that pretty much assures Internet access for even the most rustic parcels of protected wilderness.

It's meant to be a good thing. It isn't.

Peace, solitude and a chance to actually socialize in a screen-free environment can now be declared extinct, in what had been a rare no-tech oasis in a country overwhelmed with Wi-Fi.

Set up the tent or RV, chop up some wood, and then chat or play games with family and friends.

So a visit to the parks went for many, on weekends when the only technology around had "Coleman" written on it.

No Internet and spotty, expensive cellphone data gave Canadians a priceless chance to unplug, unwind and rediscover human interaction, while escaping the frantic pace of work, e-mails, texts, online banking and so on.

The parks were a refuge, treasured not only because they were untouched by the modern world, but because visitors were forced to leave the modern world behind.

Given society's addiction to screens, it's a matter of time until the glow of the fire is replaced by the glow of campers staring into cyberspace -- and with that, the sense of a small village in the woods is dead forever.

Now, with marshmallows, there will be Netflix.


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