Green Bank: The Town With No Cell Phones, No Wi-Fi and No Television

Green Bank, West Virginia, is possibly one of the quietest places on earth. That’s because there’s no cell phone reception, no Wi-Fi, no television…..not even a radio. It’s not because Green Bank is technologically backward. On the contrary, it’s home to the world’s largest radio telescope on earth — the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. The GBT is the reason the town is electromagnetically silent. Radio telescopes work by detecting electromagnetic waves that come from distant galaxies. These signals are so faint that the slightest emission of radio waves from electronic gadgets can interfere with the readings of the radio telescopes. For that reason, all cell phones, Wi-Fi, radio and other communication devices are outlawed in Green Bank. There are no cell phone towers for miles around, no music plays on the radio, no soap operas can be seen on the television. Not even gas cars are allowed because gasoline engines use spark plugs to ignite the fuel-air mixture, and electric sparks produce electromagnetic waves. The boundaries of the device-free zone extend far beyond Green Bank, covering an area roughly equal to 13,000 square miles. This region is called the National Radio Quiet Zone, and is located around the sparsely populated countryside that straddles the borders of West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland. The tech-free life in Green Bank may seem impossible for those who can’t live without their cell phones, but for the 140 residents of the town, life is bliss. Kids aren't glued to the glowing screens of their mobile devices. They actually talk to each other instead of texting. Older residents roll down their car windows to greet each other and leave their front doors unlocked. If they must speak to someone out of town, there are pay phones. Residents say that while there’s no grocery store, no restaurants, and no hospital nearby, at least they’re healthy and happy.