The Town Without Wi-Fi

http://www.washingtonian.com/articles/people/the-town-without-wi-fi/?src=longreads&mc_cid=211af0517e&mc_eid=290a0d1dfd

Obscure as the work may sound, there’s a long line of astronomers all over the world who want to use the GBT, a telescope known to be so sensitive that it can pick up the energy equivalent of a single snowflake hitting the ground…

So why does such a sensitive listening tool need total technological silence to operate? A little history—starting with telephones, in fact—helps explain.

In 1932, when Bell Labs was installing phone systems across the US, its technicians kept hearing static over the transmissions. The company hired an electrical engineer to find the source, and he discovered that all the noise was “the Milky Way galaxy itself,” says Mike Holstine, the telescope’s business manager, with a hint of awe in his voice…

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, “but it is sloooow,” in the words of one Green Banker…

In 2007, Diane Schou became one of the first electrosensitives to move to Green Bank…

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