Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bars and Tone

“This is a test of your emergency broadcast system.”

Television was the internet of the 20th century. No matter what show you were watching, it automatically became less important than the overriding emergency broadcast.

The United States East Coast experienced an emergency on ~Halloween of 2012; a powerful hurricane/nor’easter sent strong winds and high coastal surges into very densely populated areas, causing large-scale power outages and widespread flooding.

I lost power that night, as did everyone. NJ’s centralized media source,, based in Newark, went down at the height of the storm due to flooding in their building. The rest of the night was spent reading social media feeds through the BBC. Facebook had stopped working; it was too heavy to fit through my weakening signal.

The day after the storm it was reported that 25% of the cellular network was not working, and emergency services were having a difficult time communicating. People were being asked to SMS only.

Facebook eats up a lot of bandwidth; it’s media-rich – pictures and video (and advertising…save that for another post). Twitter is a text-messaging platform. This uses very little bandwidth, and so it is very useful in these emergency situations where everyone is trying to talk to everyone else, all at the same time.

The Emergency Broadcasting System needs to be updated. I don’t think I should have been allowed to even try to get on facebook that night. I’m not talking Chiranian control, but we need to start talking about government authority over bandwidth during emergencies.

You can’t expect people to just stay off the roads, even when it means making room for higher-priority vehicles. That is why we declare it illegal during a state of emergency. And you certainly can’t expect people to not communicate with their loved ones in any way they can, even if they know what bandwidth is.

FCC searching for ways to avoid widespread communication troubles in Hurricane Sandy's wake
The Associated Press

Post Script with Off the Hook: 

This topic was offered to the knowledgeable gentlemen at 99.5 fm wbai's most tech-savvy show, Off the Hook (heard Wednesdays at 7pm).

Emmanuel Goldstein, the host of the show, responds that emergency personnel use additional methods of communication such as 2-way radios etc.

Bernie S., co-host, (and first time on wbai/off the hook via skype) responds that people of authority can use the prioritization of their calls over the network compared to other traffic, citing the Government Emergency Telecommunications System (GET).

He also mentions that the National Guard of NJ set up generator-powered portable cellular networks [or, 'mobile mobile units'].

Off the Hook
Wednesday, November 28, 2012 7:00 pm, @40-45mins

partially related link:
Next Caller Please

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