Susan Crawford’s Preferred Gov-Owned Business Model Fails Sandy Survivors, Would Eviscerate Internet

by Mike Wendy on November 10, 2012

Outlier Internet activist, Susan Crawford, has long pushed for government ownership / heavy regulation of privately owned Internet infrastructure.  Well, this is what you get when the chips are down and the government “system” / “business model” really has to work.

Spoiler alert – it doesn’t:

Excerpts from today’s Wall Street Journal, “Power Authority Takes Heat for Its Response to Sandy”:

As superstorm Sandy menaced the East Coast, officials at Long Island’s biggest power company asked other utilities to lend it 700 workers to help get the electricity flowing again. But the utility says it has needed 10,000 extra workers to handle the job, many of which it got only after line crews finished work for other electric companies.

This miscalculation by LIPA was only the latest problem at the Long Island Power Authority, the government-owned utility that covers some of New York City’s most densely packed suburbs. Many of the utility’s failures stem from long-standing issues that have been detailed for years in reports commissioned by many levels of government, including the agency itself.

Among them: a physical system ravaged by years of neglect, a reliance on archaic, labor-intensive methods to gather information on outages and assign repair crews, and inadequate communications with customers, reports have shown…

…Gov. Andrew Cuomo said 87% of LIPA’s 1.1 million customers had lost power, far more than those at other New York utilities, including Consolidated Edison Inc., ED -0.13% where the roughly 25% that went dark were all projected to be restored by Sunday.

Not so at LIPA, where a quarter of all customers—165,000—remained in the dark as of Friday, including almost all of those in the New York City beachfront neighborhood known as the Rockaways.

Customers, who pay among the highest utility rates in the nation, say they can’t get through to LIPA to find out when their power will be restored. President Barack Obama is set to visit the area on Thursday…

…A state probe of the Irene response faulted LIPA for poor communication with crews and customers, and a system that “lacks the ability to manage large scale outages.” Unlike more automated utilities, LIPA relies on eyewitness reports from inspectors collected via phones, radios and, sometimes, couriers to update a database kept on a 25-year-old mainframe computer. LIPA has said it plans to replace the system but hasn’t yet done so…

…In 2006, LIPA said it would start spending $20 million a year on making its system storm-resistant, but it repeatedly fell short, spending just $7.6 million that year and an average of $12.5 million annually from 2007 through 2010, according to state investigators.

Peter Schlussler, a member of a LIPA oversight committee, said the weather-strengthening that was done was “just putting a band-aid on an already broken system.”

Sure.  Everyone has power…well, sort of, with high rates, bad infrastructure, and no incentives to improve the grid for captured consumers.  But, if this is the government-owned system that Crawford and others like her want in order to make the Internet “world class” (which it is already BTW, as evidenced this week by AT&T and its announcement of $14 billion in new, private broadband investment), then America’s got a dull-light-bulb-of-a-future ahead of us.

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