Secrets of Little-Known Town Dubbed the "Quiet Zone”

As you approach the small town of Green Bank in West Virginia, signs warn that you are entering the “Quiet Zone” — an area where cellphones and Wi-Fi are banned. It’s one of the few places on earth where people aren’t connected 24 hours a day, and it has become a Mecca for people tired of the modern world and “electrosensitive” folks who believe they suffer symptoms caused by Wi-Fi and cellphones. The reason for the electronic silence is the enormous satellite dishes in the city, which include the largest steerable radio telescope in the world, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope. The telescopes sit in a 4-mile valley surrounded by 4,800-foot mountains that create a natural barrier and shut off the noise of the world. Operating any electrical equipment which causes interference for the telescopes is illegal, punishable by a state fine of $50 per violation. The area near the telescope — which includes the town of Green Bank — is the most strictly regulated area of the Quiet Zone. Stores coat their exteriors in conductive lead paint in order to be allowed to use wireless inventory scanners. The 250 residents of Green Bank refer to themselves as “mountain people,” while outsiders are called “flatlanders.” Going to Walmart is a 100-mile round trip over some of the area’s tallest peaks. Not far from Green Bank, in the town of Sugar Grove, there's a top-secret NSA listening post with its own collection of about a dozen radio antennas. Local rumors have suggested that there’s a secret network of nuclear bunkers underneath the telescope. Many locals would love to have a bit more modern technology, with some believing that the intentional Quiet Zone may soon become a thing of the past.