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The US Town With No Wi-Fi or Cellphones (No, Really)

Photograph by Twenty20

Some of us may wax nostalgic for the "good ol' days" when encyclopedias and rotary phones were still in vogue, but for one small town in West Virginia, the past is the present. In Green Banks, West Virginia, population 143, it is illegal to own a wireless device. No, really.

That's because Green Banks is home to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which also contains the world's largest telescope. This massive telescope is ultra-sensitive to any electronic interference, so much so that television, radio and cellphone towers aren't allowed in its vicinity.

The observatory's business manager Michael Holstine tells Today that even signals from garage door remotes, microwaves, radio-control toys and Bluetooth devices "would all completely wipe out the astronomical signal."

There's even a white truck that goes around doing radio surveillance—or the "RFI police" as residents call them—to make sure no one's using anything that could disturb the telescope.

What does this mean for the residents of Green Banks? It means that to ask a friend if they're free for dinner, they have to actually pick up a (gasp!) landline phone and to Google anything or surf the Web, they have to use Ethernet cables—or even dial-up (cue horrific memories of millions of AOL discs clogging your mailbox). There are also no stop lights.

And while many of us may wonder exactly how one survives, living so unplugged, its residents claim you really can't miss what you never had.

"We're in a little bubble of the past here. The mandate to disconnect really helps you think carefully about interaction with technology. It's kind of a little oasis," resident Hanna Sizemore tells CNN.

It makes a certain kind of sense—imagine how much more free time we would have if we didn't have Facebook, Instagram or texting.

Even the teens of the town don't feel left out of the social media scene. Barry Biars shares he doesn't need to be able to text his friends because "you can go talk to them most of the time."

And if you can't find them, another teen, Dallas Vandevender, points out the obvious, "You just go around until you find them. It's not that big a town."

Perhaps Today's interview with another happy Green Banks resident, Sherry Chestnut, sums it up for the rest of us, "You know what? Your cell phone isn't looking at a person eye-to-eye, or going to their house and speaking and just shaking their hand or giving them a hug and saying, 'How are how are you today?'"

A quiet, simple life doesn't sound so bad now, does it?

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