[URBAN NOTE] “Disturbing the peace: Can America’s quietest town be saved?”
BBC’s technology reporter Dave Lee reports on the West Virginia town of Green Bank, isolated from the outside world by strict limits on radio transmissions which may be coming to an end.
I am not the first BBC reporter to pop in here. In fact, Green Bank is a source of constant fascination for journalists all over the world. Recently, several people in the town told me, a Japanese crew baffled everyone when it appeared to set up a game show-style challenge in the area.
Outsiders come here for two reasons. One, to marvel at the science. Two, to ogle at the unique people who have chosen to live here.
Green Bank sits at the heart of the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000 square mile (33,669 sq km) area where certain types of transmissions are restricted so as not to create interference to the variety of instruments set up in the hills – as well as the Green Bank Observatory, there is also Sugar Grove, a US intelligence agency outpost.
For those in the immediate vicinity of the GBT, the rules are more strict. Your mobile phone is useless here, you will not get a TV signal and you can’t have strong wi-fi - though they admit this is a losing battle. Modern life is winning, gradually. And newer wi-fi standards do not interfere with the same frequencies as before.
But this relative digital isolation has meant that Green Bank has become a haven for those who feel they are quite literally allergic to electronic interference.