Enter The Quiet Zone: Where Cell Service, Wi-Fi Are Banned
There are no physical signs you’ve entered the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000-square-mile area that covers the eastern half of West Virginia. But the silence gives you a signal. Somewhere around the Virginia-West Virginia state line, the periodic buzzes and pings of our smartphones stopped.
"Zero [service]. Searching," said photographer John Poole, who traveled with me to the zone.
Almost every radio station disappeared, too, except for Allegheny Mountain Radio, which broadcasts at a low enough frequency to avoid being banned.
"We didn’t realize the rest of the world was getting connected and staying connected constantly, via phones and computers and all that," said radio host Caleb Diller, who grew up in Pocahontas County, W.Va. "So we were kinda back in time a little bit. We hadn’t progressed to that."
The county still hasn’t progressed to constant connectivity. That’s because it sits within a zone designed to protect a sophisticated radio telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory from interference. The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope is the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope.
I didn’t realize places like this existed. It seems so unreal…almost magical. Certainly a time warp. Could you get by without wireless? Cell service? All of the instant communication to which we’ve all come to take for granted as a part of our daily lives? You definitely *could* live without it for sure; it’s not a necessity. But does it give us a better quality of life? Or do these folks in West Virginia have it made in the shade of technology-free life?