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Wireless Networking

The Town That Banned Wi-Fi 529

An anonymous reader sends a story from The Guardian about Green Bank, West Virginia, a small town housing the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. There are other telescopes nearby, too. Because the telescopes are so sensitive, stray electromagnetic signals are strictly regulated in the surrounding area, which is called the National Radio Quiet Zone. But the town is running into a problem: its population was around 120 when this began, and by now about 40 people have moved there because they want to get away from radio waves and Wi-Fi signals and other types of electromagnetic radiation. There have been reports of tensions in the town: tales of threats and abuse unfitting to a sleepy mountain village. And it is all the stranger when you consider that no serious scientific study has been able to establish that electrosensitivity exists. ... Where the locals might have been happy to tolerate one or two of the sensitives, the mass migration was beyond the pale. ... People would walk towards [one woman] with concealed electronics, in an effort to provoke a reaction. A meeting she and her husband organised to help educate the others about electrosensitivity descended into a slanging match.
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The Town That Banned Wi-Fi

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  • by dtmos ( 447842 ) * on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @04:14AM (#49975625)

    A thunderstorm must torture these people terribly.

  • by khchung ( 462899 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @04:33AM (#49975673) Journal

    So, they have to hide from the Sun during the day like a vampire also?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @04:41AM (#49975695)

      Many people are sensitive not to EM radiation, but to seeing antennas. A telco here first installs the antenna systems on their towers (this is easier to do when everything is off and there are no feedlines connected), then a month later or so a technical team installs and connects the actual comms equipment.

      Health complaints start instantly when the (still disconnected) antennas are installed. Furthermore, receive only systems give the same amount of complaints as systems with active transmitters. Systems with hidden antennas (on a roof for example) give almost no complaints.

      Dish antennas give disproportionately many complaints, even though they are very directional and thus should not leak radiation where it is not desired.

      • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @04:48AM (#49975723) Homepage Journal

        Many people are sensitive not to EM radiation, but to seeing antennas.

        If that's the case they're pretty dumb for moving to a place full of radio telescopes. They must be really powerful if they can see for millions of miles, right? Just look how big they are!

      • by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @05:08AM (#49975789)

        Many people are sensitive not to EM radiation, but to seeing antennas.

        More precisely: They are sensitive to believing that an antenna is working. There have been studies where people showed symptoms when a button was pressed and a red light went on to demonstrate that an antenna was transmitting, and the symptoms disappeared when the button was pressed again and the red light went off. (Nothing was transmitted at any time during the experiment).

        • by dargaud ( 518470 ) <slashdot2&gdargaud,net> on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @05:19AM (#49975825) Homepage
          I have a perfect example here at work. After we installed a Wifi relay in the lobby, the idi^H^Hperson manning the entrance started taking sick days after sick days, claiming the wifi was making her sick. Problem was, it wasn't activated yet (building installation wasn't finished), but since it was already powered, it was blinking. Then we activated it and placed a piece of black tape on the LEDs, told her 'Fine, we won't be using it then', and all was fine.
          • by oobayly ( 1056050 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @05:44AM (#49975901)

            I was going to suggest that the more sensible option would be to get rid of the woman as she was faking sickness to get days off - especially if the "sickness" goes when the light is off - but then she would probably have sued because just because it's psychosomatic it doesn't mean she's actually sick.

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward

              I was going to suggest that the more sensible option would be to get rid of the woman as she was faking sickness to get days off - especially if the "sickness" goes when the light is off - but then she would probably have sued because just because it's psychosomatic it doesn't mean she's actually sick.

              A psychosomatic reaction _would_ mean she was sick. Symptoms such as inflammation, nausea, vomiting and diorreah can manifest due to purely psychosomatic causes.

              Just the same, people who believe this kind of nonsense still piss me off.

              Shoggoth.

              Posting anon due to mod points.

            • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

              Generally I would agree with you WRT wifi-induced illnesses. However just because something is psychosomatic doesn't mean a person is not sick. Talk with someone with a severe anxiety disorder, or PTSD. They aren't sick with a virus or an infection. There isn't any diseased or tissue physically traumatized. But they can definitely be "sick" due to their condition. I'm married to such a person that on bad days when they are triggered, such a sickness is extremely debilitating.

              • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @10:02AM (#49977593)

                True, but there's a bit of a difference. Someone with PTSD could very well have that disease (which is a mental illness) due to traumatic experiences, such as being in combat. You can't just wish that away, at least until they develop memory-erasing technology like in the movie "Paycheck". Similarly, someone with severe anxiety disorder may have that problem because of (or have it greatly exacerbated by) various life experiences, too much stress, etc. Not everyone is rich enough to just go take a nice, long vacation and relax.

                Someone who gets sick because of WiFi (even when the WiFi device is turned off and they don't realize this) is doing it to themselves; it hasn't been done to them. It's another version of hypochondria, and a lot like religion. With people with PTSD or anxiety disorder, there's things you can do to help them: give them counseling to help deal with their traumatic memories, do things to make their lives easier so they can de-stress, etc. There's nothing you can do for one of these wifi-hypochondriacs, because it's all based on their irrational belief about EM fields, which you can't change using logic and reason; similarly there's nothing you can do for someone who believes the earth is 6000 years old, or they're infested with Body Thetans or demons, because these beliefs can't be changed with logic and reason, they're completely irrational.

          • by fnj ( 64210 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @06:35AM (#49976069)

            You have a LIVING HUMAN in reception in your company??? Answering the phone and greeting people who walk in?

            • by yndrd1984 ( 730475 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @07:04AM (#49976203)
              Yes. We're legally allowed to discriminate against dead people, at least for now.
            • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @07:21AM (#49976313)

              There seem to be two types of such humans: security guards for the building, who are very underpaid and unlikely to take sick days, their companies can replace them quickly. And cheeful pretty women with curves, who are still effective first contacts for making people feel welcome. And if they're playing the "wahhh, I need sick days!!" card, they're related to someone on staff.

              My father taught me "make friends with these people", and I *always* make friends with them and the cleaning staff. They work there, they're often treated like furniture, and they know material that the board and HR keep behind very poorly managed masks of confidentiality.

              • by Nkwe ( 604125 )

                There seem to be two types of such humans: security guards for the building, who are very underpaid and unlikely to take sick days, their companies can replace them quickly. And cheeful pretty women with curves, who are still effective first contacts for making people feel welcome.

                [...]

                My father taught me "make friends with these people", and I *always* make friends with them and the cleaning staff. They work there, they're often treated like furniture, and they know material that the board and HR keep behind very poorly managed masks of confidentiality.

                These people also typically have unbelievable levels of security accesse. They can be powerful allies.

          • After we installed a Wifi relay in the lobby, the idi^H^Hperson manning the entrance started taking sick days after sick days, claiming the wifi was making her sick.

            I would personally fire such a person. Someone that stupid is going to be a detriment to the company at some point.

            Then we activated it and placed a piece of black tape on the LEDs, told her 'Fine, we won't be using it then', and all was fine.

            You are much kinder than I would be. I hope this person had many other wonderful qualities to offset her lack of critical reasoning ability.

        • by smallfries ( 601545 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @05:43AM (#49975899) Homepage

          That is almost a well designed experiment. For counter-balancing it should randomise when something is being transmitted, and not, independently of the light. That would collect data on all four conditions.

          Sorry, I have to pick these things apart for a living and it gets difficult to stop sometimes.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            That has already been done, using a setup with a blinking light and rf that is either on or off independently, and effect is completely correlated to the light and uncorrelated to the rf.

    • The night is worse, have you seen how many radio sources are in the night sky?
  • no serious scientific study has been able to establish that electrosensitivity exists
    How come nobody had the common courtesy of a "simple" double blind experiment?
    • by MPAB ( 1074440 )

      Because mental disorders are taboo and nobody dares messing with those wackos.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Because mental disorders are taboo and nobody dares messing with those wackos.

        Also theres money to be made from delusional wackos, like the transgenders who'll pay for cosmetic surgery to help back up their delusion.

    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @05:00AM (#49975769)

      Just like the recent vaccine scare. It is hard to prove to people that something is indeed safe. One off comment that something is dangerious our a dangerious word is used to explain it is enough to turn off their brains and go into fear mode.

      • Exactly this. And just like with the anti-vaccine folks, if you debunk one claim "Electrosensitive" people make, they will deny your evidence to the contrary, claim it's part of a conspiracy, and/or give new reasons why EM Sensitivity exists/vaccines are bad. In the latter case, it becomes a game of whack-a-mole where NOT disproving their latest theory PROVES (to them) that they are correct. It doesn't matter if this is Theory #7,453 - you must prove it wrong or else they are right!

    • by MPAB ( 1074440 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @05:07AM (#49975785)

      From TFA:

      “I encourage scientists to go to where we are and measure the environment,” she replied. “Don’t try to pretend that you’re God and expose us to different frequencies in a lab. That’s like taking someone and breaking their legs and asking how much it hurts.”
      “Conventional government-funded science isn’t a reliable indicator of health defects,” she told me. “There’s a vested interest in keeping the truth out of circulation. But the independent science isn’t sceptical about it at all.”
      And "Eventually I established that I was reacting to a buried cellphone tower. US Cellular was the brand – I didn’t react to AT&T, Spring or Cellular One towers.” She reeled off the names as if it would be the most normal thing in the world to have a brand-specific allergy."

      Many of them are not willing to take part on experiments. And if they do, they can always say science is flawed, the symptoms are frequency- or even brand-specific and if all else fails, you know: "It's a conspiration and I felt bad throughout the whole experiment because chemtrails."

      • I'm guessing it's the stickers or paint on the actual equipment causing the problems, seeing as it's all probably the same Ericsson or Huawei kit.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @08:43AM (#49976855)

        You missed the best quote:

        “See those?” he asked.

        “Aeroplane trails?”

        “Not contrails – chemtrails,” he said. “The government sprays the air – it gets in the atmosphere.” He paused and looked me in the eye. “The world needs to know what’s happening here.”

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      no serious scientific study has been able to establish that electrosensitivity exists

      How come nobody had the common courtesy of a "simple" double blind experiment?

      Because no matter how much you want to, poking these people's eyes out is against the law.

    • no serious scientific study has been able to establish that electrosensitivity exists

      How come nobody had the common courtesy of a "simple" double blind experiment?

      Well I doubt that such an experiment would establish that electrosensitivity exists....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @04:46AM (#49975719)

    Isn't this an acceptable solution? Give them space where they can have their way. Radiosensitivity is a harmless crazy. It's not like the United States of America lack space. Every year many thousands of tech freaks gather in a desert to live out their dream of a high tech tribal life. Isn't there room for other loonies too?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If you read the article (I know, I know...) the people who have actually lived there for generations are upset with it because the crazies are showing up and making unreasonable demands (stores have to use certain kinds of lights, etc.) and are going out on the internet and telling other crazies to come live there. It's a (very) small town that can't support too many people, and the residents who've lived there all their lives are at risk of being forced out by these people.

      Instead of giving them space, how

    • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @05:12AM (#49975803)

      Isn't there room for other loonies too?

      The problem is that the town originally had 120 normal residents. Now, 40 extreme sensitives have moved there, and have started stirring up trouble, like demanding that other residents remove neon lights in stores, etc. The original residents are not enthused with this, and fear that the loonies with drive them out of their own town.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @05:29AM (#49975855)

        Seems to me they just need to invest in plenty of neon signs reading "FUCK OFF!".

      • Simple - put neon tubes everywhere and starve the loons out of town.

      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        And what would be wrong with that? I mean, as long as they go through the proper chanels and follow procedure. e.g. they hold up qn election if neon lights should be banned or not. If the majority wants that to happen, so be it.

        What could happen is that 81 more people move in and they get the majority. Well, so be it.

        To me this is just another case of "Everybody wants change, nobody wants to change." and this goes for BOTH sides.

        And why call them loonies? I know people with imaginary friends that they talk

      • Why would they have neon lights near a radio telescope? Those things generate wide band EM from the plasma.
    • by ComputerGeek01 ( 1182793 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @08:53AM (#49976945)

      Isn't this an acceptable solution? Give them space where they can have their way. Radiosensitivity is a harmless crazy. It's not like the United States of America lack space. Every year many thousands of tech freaks gather in a desert to live out their dream of a high tech tribal life. Isn't there room for other loonies too?

      You're missing the story between the lines here aren't you? Most of the people here are as well. The real reason that the residence are complaining is that this is a tiny rural town in West Virginia and most of the existing population will not be able to weather any amount of gentrification. After all it was chosen for the site of these radio telescopes because there was never any pre-existing infrastructure to reconfigure or rip-down. The types of people that can just uproot their lives and move to a backwoods town in the middle of nowhere are either retired or independently wealthy. Either way that family home that some-ones great great grand-pappy built with his own two hands is getting knocked into the dirt where it belongs and a shiny new McMansion is going up. They're pissed because there ain't nothin' that brother-cousin Cletus can do about any of it.

  • There is a real problem with studies related to things like this. A few people claim to have some problem - electrosensitivity in this case - which they may or may not have. Then a whole load of other people hear about it, and all claim to have it as well, most simply because they have had some minor random problem, and latch onto it as a reason. In effect the whole thing snowballs. Now, there may actually be a very few people who do genuinely have the problem, but when you come to do the studies, you samp
  • From TFA: "Sweden is one of the few places to recognise electrosensitivity as a disability and the government will help sufferers insulate their homes."
    I suppose they can also apply for full disability and a pension because they cannot work in any modern environment.

    • by fnj ( 64210 )

      Yeah, Sweden, fiberglass insulation will really do a lot to stop electromagnetic waves, no?

    • by Megol ( 3135005 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @07:09AM (#49976235)

      The article is wrong.
      EHS isn't generally recognized as something but psychosomatic illness by medical science however the use of the label is allowed (EU directive IIRC).
      Some places gives money to "sanitize" the homes of people claiming sensitivity - but most doesn't. The stated goal for those places that do isn't to reduce electromagnetic radiation per se but to reduce the nocebo effect. The law doesn't count alleged EHS as a disability and doesn't require anyone to reduce EM exposure which it would if the effect were considered real.

      People diagnosed with EHS may apply for disability just as other suffering from some serious psychosomatic illnesses.

      In short it seems that Sweden was listed as an example to "prove" the effect is real as considered by some state. That's simply false. The local law, medical science and research all consider it being purely psychosomatic triggered by the nocebo effect.

  • in The Washingtonian [washingtonian.com] probably inspired the Guardian's article.

  • Not So Fast (Score:5, Informative)

    by dcw3 ( 649211 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @06:00AM (#49975955) Journal

    The FCC ban was created in 1958. The town didn't ban this.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • anyone else wonder if the electrosensitivity "movement" has been funded by cable/ISP companies?
  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @06:54AM (#49976163)

    A synonym for electrosensitivity is hypochondriac.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A blacksmith i worked with, was sensitive to magnetism, due to the levels of iron that were embedded in his skin, and his sensitivity in muscle control due to twenty years working with a wide range of hammers. He could feel qualitative differences in magnetic fields, which was great for diagnosing faults in electric motors. :D

      It's not outside of the range of possibility that there are people who are sensitive to this.

  • Bwahahahaha, my evil plan... "Release the brainwashed electro-sensitive zombies!", all but invisible to the NSA, no known modern technology can track them...

    The Quiet Zone protects the telescopes of the NRAO facility, and the antennas and receivers of the U.S. Navy's Information Operations Command (NIOC) at Sugar Grove. The NIOC has long been the location of electronic intelligence-gathering systems, and is today said to be a key station in the ECHELON system operated by the National Security Agency (NSA)

    Let see how long they can stand the onslaught of pseudo-science arguments until they cave and abandon post.

  • When you have an influx of people who are delusional, then conflict is to be expected.

"The greatest warriors are the ones who fight for peace." -- Holly Near

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