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Green Bank
Photograph: John M. Chase /

Did you know there’s a town in the USA where mobile phones, TV and wi-fi are banned?

Green Bank in West Virginia has been without most modern technology for more than 60 years

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham

Back in the good old days, people couldn’t talk to each other unless it was via letters, telegraph or, y’know, actual talking. It’s easy to romanticise that kind of pre-internet world – one with no phones, screens or endless Facebook notifications. A world full of proper, classic human interaction. 

Back in those days, of course, life expectancy was very, very low, and fuck tons of people died of horrible diseases. But now imagine a world without all that misery and death, and without phones and internet rubbish, too. It’d be so blissful, you wouldn’t even be able to read this beautiful (and incredibly enlightening) Time Out article.

But that’s pretty much the lifestyle of the residents of Green Bank, West Virginia – because here, mobile phones and wi-fi are totally outlawed. And the reason for that? The town lies in the shadow of one of the world’s most ginormous telescopes.

Green Bank sits in the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000-square-mile area in which radio transmissions (and similar-length airwaves) are heavily restricted by law. It’s home to the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT, for short), which was built in 1956 and remains the world’s largest fully-steerable radio telescope.

The GBT is a whopping 485 feet tall, and requires the near-total absence of any nearby signals to operate. For Green Bank’s 180 residents, that means they aren’t allowed mobile phones, TVs or wi-fi routers. The rules are enforced by a special kind of ‘radio policeman’, who does his rounds by checking for rogue frequencies.

However, Green Bank isn’t totally absent from screens and the world wide web. The town’s residents still use wired internet and phones, and while they can’t use the wi-fi function on tablets and games consoles, they still have them.

So what kind of person would want to live in that sort of place? Green Bank notably attracts people who believe they’re suffering from so-called ‘electromagnetic hypersensitivity’ (EHS). EHS sufferers believe that certain things in modern life like phones, fridges and microwaves are making them ill. It hasn’t been proven as an actual disease, but we guess it’s still nice that Green Bank provides them with a haven of sorts. 

The other upside to living in a community like Green Bank is that you can basically cut yourself off from the outside world completely. It’s an escape from annoying Facebook relatives commenting on your wall, from angry Twitter cowards blasting up your timeline and from LinkedIn entrepreneurs showing off in your face all the damn time. Total virtual silence. And doesn’t that actually sound quite nice?

While we’re here: did you know there’s a load of rampaging cocaine hippos in Colombia?

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