Long Reads Pick of the Week: The Town Without Wi-Fi

Since I spend so much time reading long-form non-fiction online, I’m going to link to my favourite one every week for anyone who’s interested in similar reading.

This week’s story features a small town in North America where the residents can’t use cell phones, wi-fi, or other kinds of modern technology due to a high-tech government telescope. This ban has made the town a magnet for technophobes, something the locals aren’t too thrilled about. You can read the full story here.

the town without wi fi

It turned out there was a whole community of people out there who called themselves “electrosensitives” and said they were suffering due to the electromagnetic frequencies that radiate wirelessly from cell phones, wi-fi networks, radio waves, and virtually every other modern technology that the rest of society now thinks of as indispensable.

The affliction has been dubbed “electromagnetic hypersensitivity,” or EHS, and it involves a textbook’s worth of ailments: headaches, nausea, insomnia, chest pains, disorientation, digestive difficulties, and so on. Mainstream medicine doesn’t recognize the syndrome, but the symptoms described everything Grimes was experiencing.

She went back to her doctors with her newfound evidence of EHS, relieved to have sorted out the mystery. But she got no sympathy. As she puts it, “They look at you like you have three heads.”

Grimes moved to a new building, then another, and six more times, but at each turn a smart-meter rollout wasn’t far behind. “I sat down there in Florida,” she says, “and just prayed to God: ‘Where is my way out?’ ”

That’s when she heard about a little town called Green Bank, West Virginia.

In Green Bank, you can’t make a call on your cell phone, and you can’t text on it, either. Wireless internet is outlawed, as is Bluetooth. It’s a premodern place by design, devoid of the gadgets and technologies that define life today. And thanks to Uncle Sam, it will stay that way: The town is part of a federally mandated zone where a government high-tech facility’s needs come first. Wireless signals are verboten.

In electromagnetic terms, it’s the quietest place on Earth—blanketed by the kind of silence that’s golden to electrosensitives like Monique Grimes.

And as she discovered, it’s become a refuge for them.

The Town Without Wi-Fi by Michael J. Gaynor

 

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