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The United States National Radio Quiet Zone forbids radio noise in a 34,000 km2 rectangle encompassing several touristic towns: Staunton, Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Bridgewater, Shenandoah Valley, Stuarts Draft, Waynesboro, Amherst.

Does the Radio Quiet Zone have any impact on travellers visiting the area?

For instance, the Wikipedia article says "Gasoline-powered motor vehicles are forbidden within 1 mile of the telescope". TV, phone and WiFi seem to be impacted too, in the whole area.

  • How to not breach the rules?
  • What services will not be available?
  • I can't answer authoritatively, but I've been in Charlottesville, and people there use cell phones just like everywhere else. Wifi, microwaves, cars, etc seemed normal too. I never heard about the quiet zone until just now. – Nate Eldredge Jul 21 '15 at 9:01
  • If you're not within 30km of the radiotelescope you are unlikely to notice anything. – Michael Hampton Jul 21 '15 at 16:43
  • I used to live in within this area - not far from Shenandoa Valley - and I don't remember having to shut down my wifi or mobile phone, frankly. – Aleks G Jul 21 '15 at 17:48
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I lived in that zone for three years (1993-1996), and I have traveled in it several times more recently, but this is the first I have ever heard of its existence. How did you even become aware of it?

I lived in Lexington, VA, and my travels have been mainly on the Blue Ridge and in the Shenandoah and James River valleys. I can't speak for areas closer to the telescopes, but in the vast majority of the zone, you will find no impact whatsoever.

  • The topic has come up on Slashdot too. – nic Jul 22 '15 at 5:48
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I live in Lynchburg, Virginia but drive up 29 often enough (in the bottom right of the box, and most of that area is apparently in the silent zone. The only things I've noticed are FM radio stations tend to fade more in that region and my phone never seems to work, but the roads are sort of embedded in the hills so this would seemingly be the case anywhere.

As far as enforcement goes, I saw this article on NPR several years back. They have a map on that page with a circle in it that represents where the rules are more "actively" enforced (example: man drives around in truck, looking for radio signals, asking people to turn off WIFI or whatever). When I put on my radio knowledge hat, I noticed in the article the things they appear to be blocking the most are "microwave" transmissions. (You can never escape the super low frequency signals they use to talk to submarines or the radios some hobbyists bounce off the ionosphere). I'm willing to bet there are areas of Alaska more quiet on the RF spectrum than a place several hours from DC.

It's important to remember this area is pretty hilly and rural. Even if there wasn't a quiet zone here, there just isn't much merit for lots of high-power equipment.

So will it affect your travels here? No. You likely won't notice unless you go to the receiver itself (which I hear has a visitors office) but that's not a place you would accidentally stumble into.

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