GREEN BANK, W.Va. (WBOY) — The National Science Foundation (NSF) has taken the first steps toward changing the 60-year-old definition of National Radio Quiet Zone (NRQZ), which could help improve telecommunication in Pocahontas County and the surrounding area.
The 13,000 square mile NRQZ around Green Bank was created in 1958 to protect radio astronomy scientific operations at the country’s first national radio astronomy observatory, the Green Bank Observatory. Since then, the town and area around it has developed without modern luxuries like Wi-Fi and cell phones.
Last month, an agreement was established between the NRQZ and Pocahontas County Commission so emergency services could use a radio band that can operate with lower power that won’t affect the observatory, but 911 calls from cell phones and even usual radio communications among first responders are still off limits. The new Request for Information by the NSF asks for improvements for emergency communications coverage in Pendleton and Pocahontas counties, according to a release.
The NSF request wants to create immediate, medium-term and long-term plans to address the safety of residents in the area as well as protect the radio telescope, which is now being impacted by transmissions like cellular and broadband connectivity.
The release said that involved organizations will look into strategies and the costs to improve telecommunications while protecting the telescope’s operations.
“All agencies involved in the NRQZ want to provide solutions. We look forward to the in-depth research and recommendations this study will provide to help us improve the effectiveness of the NRQZ for everyone,” Ashley Vanderley, Senior Advisor for Facilities in the NSF’s Division of Astronomical Sciences, said in the release.