The National Radio Quiet Zone is an eerie time capsule of life before the text message. Located in West Virginia, the NRQZ encompasses 13,000 square miles of radio silence. The area was established by the Federal Communications Commission in 1958 to prevent possible interference to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.
The town of Green Bank, West Virginia, situated within the zone, is home to 143 people who never have to put up with the accusation, “I texted you! Why didn’t you respond?” That is because they have no cell phone reception, Wi-Fi, and very few microwaves. In today’s harried world, many of us would welcome a break from the constant contact, notifications, emailing on the go, and general stress that accompanies our always connected lives.
A new short documentary by Seeker Network entitled The American Town Banning Cell Phones and Wi-Fi gives a closer look at what life is like in a town left behind by the wireless revolution. The documentary crew interviews a number of the town’s residents to ask them why they live in Green Bank. Among them is a resident who has an illness that deters her from being anywhere near electro magnetism, who has chosen to live without electricity. The description of her condition is reminiscent of a character in the AMC series Better Call Saul.
The town may now serve as a haven for those looking to escape the connected world, but not everyone plays along. According to the documentary, there are already a number of wireless routers present in the town, even though they are strongly discouraged. Residents must sign a clause in their rental agreements that they will not use Wi-Fi modems in the town.
The opportunities that the NRQZ offers are fascinating, and most recently the University of California at Berkley has rented out the radio telescopes in the area to search for signs of life in the universe.
You can watch the whole documentary at the top of this post.