Covering over 4.3 million acres of breathtaking scenery, the Salmon-Challis National Forest in Idaho is home to the Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness Area, the second largest wilderness area in the continental United States. At Colorado Bend State Park in Bend, Texas, crawling cave tours and waterfalls offer high adventure and exploration at a major bend in the Colorado River. All across the U.S., state and national parks attract more than one billion visitors every year, providing endless opportunities for recreation, activity, and relaxation in the great outdoors.
By their very nature, parks are often located in remote areas of natural beauty such as mountains and forests, and near lakes and rivers. But locations off the beaten path that are ideal for camping, fishing, hiking, swimming, and other outdoor activities often lack even a telephone, let alone any other kind of fixed or wireless communications, raising safety and security concerns for both park staff and visitors.
Enter Hughes satellite broadband, which unlike terrestrial technologies does not rely on towers, cables, or wires—an impossibility in many park locations. All that’s needed for a high-speed Internet connection is a compact satellite modem along with an external dish antenna with a clear view of the southern sky.
The nationwide HughesNet® broadband satellite service solves the problem of staying connected when an emergency strikes at any park location, while also providing Internet access for routine tasks such as email, browsing, file downloads, and streaming video. Hughes satellite broadband solutions enable parks to operate reservation systems for campsites and special activities, as well as handle point-of-sale transactions in concessions and camp stores, hunting and fishing license sales, and boat and equipment rentals.
“Satellite broadband service is a natural in federal, state, and local parks,” said Tony Bardo, assistant vice president for Hughes Government Solutions. “The beauty of satellite is that Internet connectivity is possible regardless of location or terrain. In addition, it can be used in multiple ways—for everyday Internet access, emergency services, and backup for an existing network.”
Colorado State Parks, a division of the State’s Department of Natural Resources, for example, relies on a Hughes broadband solution using its award-winning SPACEWAY® 3 satellite system for primary network connectivity to support operations at 15 remote state park sites. The solution includes high-speed Internet access with voice, video, and data applications, supporting site-to-site and site-to-data center connectivity.
Meanwhile in Texas, Hughes is providing the Parks and Wildlife Department with a backup network to support 90 state park sites, as part of an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract by the State of Texas. In addition to broadband Internet access and full application support, the Hughes solution provides managed network services utilizing a cost-effective, hubless private network architecture.
At the 2010 National Association of State Park Directors Conference held in September in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Internet access took top spot in a session on the top 10 technologies needed in state parks.
“Internet access—and especially Wi-Fi—create a great draw at campgrounds,” added Ed DiCarlo, senior director of Hughes Government Solutions. “We learned at the conference that when a state park can offer Internet access or Wi-Fi, campers typically stay an average of two days longer, creating an important revenue stream for the parks.”
This finding is especially significant during tough economic periods when families are looking for cost-effective ways to take vacations. According to a study by The Outdoor Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Boulder Colorado, camping increased nearly 16 percent in the U.S. in 2008.
Fortunately, Hughes satellite broadband makes it possible for parks to stay connected to the technological world while offering those campers—and other visitors—the sublime benefits of the natural one.