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[ NNSquad ] Re: In Sandy's Wake, Cellphone Users Steaming at Hit-or-Miss Service

...Like I've said many times, not having at least one conventional
landline phone (ideally powered over copper from the central office)
puts you at a terrible disadvantage in emergencies.  Cell networks are
the first to become overloaded, first to fail, and the hardest to
It is important for people to understand - as I'm sure our esteemed commentator does :-) - that this is *not* something inherent in the technology.  Rather, its a matter of design choices.  Conventional landline phones are reliable because they were deliberately designed that way.  Normal operation never required huge banks of batteries plus generators to keep supplying power through long external failures.  They could have been engineered for lower peak capacity.  And so on.  "Ma Bell" engineered things the way because they saw it as part of their mission.  They were able to do it because they were a monopoly - and one that was protected by law.  (That's not to say they didn't have ulterior motives - e.g., the classic motives of a regulated monopoly whose profits are defined to be based on a percentage of their installed plant, among many other things.  Still, if we're going to applaud the good that comes about due entirely to self-interest in a purely capitalist society, we can't complain about the good that comes about because of the self-interested actions of regulated monopolies.)

Over the last 30 years or so, we've defined economic efficiency as the only goal of business - and increasingly of government as well.  Most of the time, that's better for everyone.  But it's inherently incompatible with preparing for unlikely  events that will somehow fall "on someone else's watch".  So we build just enough capacity with just enough battery backup to cover the everyday occurrences - and dump the cost of disasters fall on "the government", that is, all of us.

                                                        -- Jerry

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