Welcome to the Quiet Zone


In 1958, the Federal Communications Commission established the 13,000-square-mile National Radio Quiet Zone, a one-of-a-kind area encompassing Green Bank where, to this day, electromagnetic silence is enforced every hour of every day. The strictest rules are found within the ten square miles immediately surrounding Green Bank, where most forms of modern communication—i.e., cell phones and wi-fi—are banned under state law. Residents are allowed to use land-line phones and wired internet…(…)

Over the last few years, electrosensitives have flocked to the tech-free idyll in West Virginia, taking shelter beside cows and farms and fellow sufferers.

Rising above it all is the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, a.k.a. the GBT. It’s the largest of its kind in the world and one of nine in Green Bank, all of them government-owned and operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. (…)They’re radio telescopes. The patterns of electromagnetic radiation coming off a planet or other celestial bodies apparently reveal entirely different things than what’s visible to the eye (…)

“It’s as much art as it is science,” says technician Chuck Niday as he points out the machinery he uses to track interference in the Quiet Zone. There are spectrum analyzers, global positioning systems, bundles of wires, and a box with a circle of small bulbs that light up in the direction of the radiation. It’s a tricky job—the signals bounce off buildings and mountains, change direction, hide themselves in the most unexpected places. A few years back, the protection group traced one to a dog pen in a couple’s back yard. The animal had chewed through his electric blanket, causing tiny jolts of electricity to arc across the frayed wires and send out radio interference.


From an article written by Michael J. Gaynor for Washingtonian