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Wi-Fi in the woods

There’s been an outpouring of negative reaction since Parks Canada announced its plans of creating wireless Internet hotspots on Monday.

But Andrew Campbell, director of visitor experience with Parks Canada, says the wireless zones would be restricted to visitor centres and campgrounds -- “not in the wilderness, and not in the back country,” he told CTV’s Power Play.

“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.

“Those sorts of things are what people have been asking us for, and so we’re trying to provide that to our visitors,” he added.

The agency is currently requesting tenders from Canadian companies to install Internet access in as many as 150 locations over the next three years.

And while many Canadians see natural parks as places to escape city life without the distraction of technology, Campbell says the agency is seeking ways to attract younger generations and urbanites to the wilderness in order to boost visitor numbers.

Approximately 20 million people visit Parks Canada’s parks every year, but that number has been steadily decreasing over the years.

“So what we’ve been looking at is how we can attract other audiences and more urban people, quite frankly, coming into natural areas, and how we can create that connection,” he said.

Campbell also said a youth council has been put in place in order to get the next generation “enthused” about nature, as the average age of campers has been increasing.

Meanwhile, David Webb, editor of Explore Magazine, says a lot of the negative reaction surrounding Parks Canada’s proposal to introduce modern cellphone coverage is “a bit overblown,” and that the effect on camping will be negligible. 

“The wilderness is still going to be there for everyone, you just might have to hike a bit to get to it -- but Jasper is a 10,000 square-kilometre park, so it’s there,” he told CTV News Channel.

“There’s a lot of wilderness in Canada that will never be a Wi-Fi zone,” he added.

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