Print | Back to e-WV The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Etam Earth Station


Located at Etam, Preston County, the Etam Earth Station is one of the major sites in the country for receiving transmissions from orbiting communications satellites. Four large dish antennas pick up signals at the station, which is operated by AT&T.

Etam lies just north of the 13,000-square-mile National Radio Quiet Zone. The zone spans a section of West Virginia and Virginia, established in 1958 by the Federal Communications Commission to reduce interference to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank in Pocahontas County. The radio quiet zone includes Sugar Grove in Pendleton County, nearly 100 miles southeast of Etam, where eight dish antennas also pick up electronic transmissions. Sugar Grove is home to a U.S. Navy Information Operations Command base.

Etam Earth Station and the Sugar Grove naval station are said to be part of a worldwide intelligence gathering network named Echelon. According to press reports, the network includes the National Security Agency in the United States, and similar agencies in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The network is widely reported to be able to tap into all types of electronically transmitted communications, including phone calls, e-mails, and faxes.


  1. Richelson, Jeffrey. Desperately Seeking Signals. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, (Mar.-Apr. 2000).

  2. Steelhammer, Rick. Easy Listening: Government has its Ear on You via Satellite. Charleston Gazette, 4/9/2000.