Town Without Wifi: The Story of Green Bank, West Virginia

Town without wifi

Could you live in a town without wifi? Since I don’t really own a smartphone, it’d probably be easier for me.

Most people who do use smartphones would probably find this difficult. Nonetheless, perhaps staying in a town with no wifi would be a perfect attempt at extreme digital minimalism.

The Town Without Wifi

Greenbank, West Virginia

If you’ve never heard of Greenbank, West Virginia, you’re probably not alone. It’s a small town tucked away in the Alleghany Mountain range.

The last census recorded a population of about 143 citizens. With a population that small it seems like an escape from people just as much as an escape from wifi.

The reason there’s little wifi in this town is because it’s illegal. You’re not allowed to have cell phones, Bluetooth, or any form of wifi whatsoever.

You can’t even use microwave or garage door openers. They all give off radio signals.

One store even had to remove their automatic opening doors. At this point, you’re probably wondering why all of this isn’t allowed.

National Radio Quiet Zone

The reason wifi isn’t allowed in Green Bank, West Virginia is because it’s located in a National Radio Quiet Zone. These areas are protected by the government from any interference so research can be conducted through the radio telescope.

The Green Bank radio telescope is the largest one in the world. It’s used to listen to radio energies and study how the universe works.

As big as the telescope is, a signal from something even as small as your smartphone makes it difficult for employees to do their work.

Even if you try listening to the radio in your car, all you’ll generally get is white noise. Though surprisingly, there is a jazz radio station that operates because the antenna is shielded.

The only people allowed to use any significant signal are the first responders, who have short distant radios. Greenbank is probably one of the last places in the world that still has a payphone.

It’s for people who get lost, and one of the few places you can search the web. There’s a catch though. It’s a dial-up modem.

If you grew up in the ’80s or ’90s like me, you probably remember those. If you didn’t, don’t expect anything really fast.

The only decent internet access most residents have is an ethernet connection, and even that’s not very fast. A surveillance truck is used to detect any illegal radio signals.

Anyone found using a mobile phone will usually be politely asked to turn it off. If you have to call anyone, the only option you have besides the payphone is a good old fashion landline.

Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort

The only place you can connect to the internet with your phone is the Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort. Engineers were able to get the radio wave frequency to just a low enough level for phones to operate.

AT&T had to install 180 antennas at the resort and 3 miles of fiberoptic cable to help prevent any interference. So if you really need the internet, you can go skiing to get some.

Could you live in a town with no wifi?

Many of the residents who live in this town actually enjoy not having the wifi. One teenager said they didn’t feel they were missing out on texting or social media.

They like just going to their friend’s house to talk to them or make plans. Even if they aren’t home, the town is so small, they end up finding them somewhere.

Another resident said she was more happy with talking to people face to face. She appreciates getting the chance to shake people’s hands or give a hug.

On the outside looking in, it seems like a great place to remind you of what’s important in life. You can reconnect with people and nature.

Are you ready to do extreme digital minimalism?

Maybe this town with no wifi is inspiring you to cut back on your technology. It could also be true you’re not ready to live in a town with no wifi.

If that’s the case, there are other options you can try. Have you ever considered a screen-free week? In the beginning, it started off as turning off TVs for one entire week.

With the rise of smartphones and other devices, it’s now expanded to all screens. The goal is to not use a screen for any entertainment purposes for one week.

Perhaps during this time you can also journal about your experience and reflect on it when the week is up. This can help you determine the ideal amount of time you’ll use screens in the future.

Maybe you could also consider downgrading your phone to lessen your screentime. I myself still use a flip phone and I rarely look at it unless I’m making a call.

Studies suggest frequent screen usage can make us more depressed or anxious. You might find yourself happier than ever the more you limit your screen time.

In the end, if you can’t live in a town with no wifi, perhaps it’d be worth a vacation. You can use the time to disconnect and relax.

Video on the town with no wifi

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