Will WiFi Destroy Mount Everest? (Environment Alert)

Md_horiz Last week, a network of eight 3G base stations began operating along the route to Mount Everest, in Sagarmatha National Park. They were installed by Ncell, a Nepali telecom firm.
Jeff Greenwald of Salon writes: "Today, the value has shifted. What we look for now is connectedness: the opportunity to check our e-mail, upload video clips and chat on Skype — even if we happen to be on the Khumbu Icefall, 18,000 feet high in the Nepal Himalaya.

"Access to the Internet is starting to seem like a human right," Greenwald continues, "so let me offer a disclaimer. There is no rational downside to the arrival of broadband on the flanks of Everest. I'm not a Luddite, and would never suggest that developing nations should be denied, for any reason, the global access that technology can provide. This 3G network will undoubtedly save lives — not only by providing weather information and support to Everest climbers and trekkers, but as an alert system for the nearby villages threatened by flash floods from Glacial Lake Overflow (GLOF), another peril caused by global warming.

"So why did the news make me feel like Robert Conway in "Lost Horizon," looking back on a land to which I can never return?" Greenwald added, wistfully. "During my earliest visit to Nepal in 1979, phoning home even from Kathmandu was an adventure. I'd bike to the Telecommunications Office at 2 a.m. (mid-afternoon in New York), fill out a form, and wait hours for my trunk call to go through. The costly result was often a busy signal — or a barely audible connection. The most reliable means of communication was "snail mail": a metaphor that, with three weeks of lag time between a letter and its response, seemed literally true."

Thomas Friedman of The New York Times reported recently that, depending on your perspective, is good news or a sign of the apocalypse. It reported that a Nepali telecommunications firm had just started providing third-generation mobile network service, or 3G, at the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain, to “allow thousands of climbers and trekkers who throng the region every year access to high-speed Internet and video calls using their mobile phones.”

Friedman added that "this is just one small node in what is the single most important trend unfolding in the world today: globalization — the distribution of cheap tools of communication and innovation that are wiring together the world’s citizens, governments, businesses, terrorists and now mountaintops — is going to a whole new level."


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