Talking tech since 2003

I’ve taken some time to think about a some things the past few days.

Namely, how these days there are two major things we take for granted here in the US: Power/Electricity and Internet. With Hurricane Sandy passing over most of the tri-state area, and wiping out the power along with it, I was reminded just how important both of those things actually are. I was also reminded just how difficult it is to live without one of them, let alone both of them at the same time. Another thing I was reminded of is how some of these complex systems are very interconnected and how reliant they all are on power.

When the power goes out across the board, cell towers also go out, making it very difficult for people to obtain cellular service. And without cell service, people feel very disconnected. If the phone companies are serious about getting rid of landlines, they need to make sure cell service can withstand power outages, because that old spiral corded phone that you make fun of sitting at your parents house in the cabinet is the only thing that will work flawlessly during a power outage — that needs to change.

The same problem seems to occur with many cable systems. Our local cable provider, Cablevision/Optimum has been experiencing outages in several areas due to issues with their equipment and also because of power outages. Whereas, systems such as Verizon’s FiOS which usually start the fiber line directly within the customers house typically can resume services (Internet, TV, phone) upon power restoration (provided none of the equipment was damaged with the outage).

There’s no question about it, it’s tough living without power and Internet.

But is it our fault we can’t function well without power?

After all, people functioned for thousands of years prior to electricity being invented, yet now we can barely go one day without the modern marvel. The thing is, I don’t think it is our fault and I don’t think we should be expected to be able to live without it just because people in past did.

The result of not having power is crushing, mentally/emotionally and also economically. From a mental/emotional standpoint, there is only so long that people can really go without having power and all the things that come with it, the most important obviously being, heat and hot water for when its cold or air conditioning for when its hot. After a certain period of time — 7 days? 10 days? — it becomes a real problem. People have thresholds and once those thresholds are reached, they snap.

From an economic standpoint, people are unable to get work done or in some cases some people can’t even get to work when the power is out. Not only that, but I’m sure there is a loss of productivity. The loss of productivity may be from people chatting more than usual about their situation and the recent news/events or from people who are still stuck in “crisis mode” because they don’t have power at home.

I hate to say it, but all of this makes you wonder just how vulnerable the country is to an attack on our power grid, however, I’ll save that discussion for another time.

We have been accustomed to having electricity, heat, air conditioning, and hot water for showers and baths, for a very long time. And we have also become accustomed to having access to the Internet whenever we want for almost 15 to 20 years at this point. When all of that is taken away with one gust of wind, it sucks — to put it bluntly.

It also sucks when the company in charge of restoring the power isn’t transparent or accurate with power restoration timelines. The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), the company in charge of power on Long Island (where I live), is quite frankly, the worst of the worst when it comes to utility companies. The lack of transparency and care for customers is beyond frightening — if you don’t believe me, just check their Facebook page.

Utility companies like LIPA need to be held accountable for their slow restoration times because it’s just unacceptable to be without power for this long in today’s society. Too many things rely on power, without it, you cannot live a normal life. It’s impossible.

At this point, many people have been 10 full days without power and LIPA has been anything but helpful to them. I feel bad for them, I also feel bad for the people who have had power restored but will likely lose it again due to this new storm. I just hope I’m not one of those people.

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