• Remembering That OTHER Outage

    When Canada's biggest mobile provider goes down, even if only for a few hours, it's a very big deal. I'm hoping that the Rogers outage this past Wednesday was only a minor inconvenience to anyone reading this. As I understand it the data network wasn't affected, which is a good thing.

    Outages certainly suck, and today I'd like to send you into your holiday weekend with a little story about the largest such event that I've experienced, the great Northeast blackout of 2003 -- where it was the mobile network that prevailed even when the electrical grid went down.

    Late in the afternoon of Thursday, August 14th, 2003 I was futzing around on my laptop when the WiFi stopped working. I thought it was an issue with my laptop, and it was only after I rebooted a couple of times that I saw it was running on battery power, despite being plugged in. My smartphone of the day was Handspring's Treo 270, which happened to be sitting on the table beside me. When I finally thought to check a WAP news site -- remember WAP? -- I realized what was happening.

    Despite a massive power outage across Ontario and the Northeastern United States my mobile service from Fido was unaffected. If I remember correctly landline phones were also still working. This was good because most people still had landlines but bad because they also had cordless phones, which were now quite useless.
    It was business as usual for my Treo, though. I can't remember if I could tether to my laptop or not -- somehow I got out a blog post later that same evening -- but in short order the executive decision was made to re-purpose my more powerful computer as an extended battery for my phone. And with that I set about calling friends and family to make sure they were okay, and to fill them in on what was going on.

    I also distinctly remember a knock on my door -- it was my neighbour, whose cordless phone had gone dead. She wanted to call her boyfriend so I handed her my Treo; she promptly handed it back and said:

    "I don't know how to use this..."

    I was fortunate back then that my mobile service stayed up while everything else went down. That I've currently no less than four separate sources for Internet in my house speaks to my low tolerance for outages; a short service interruption on WIND Mobile this past summer prompted my girlfriend and I to move to another provider.

    I guess we're all somewhat guilty of taking for granted the wonders of modern mobile service, and it's only when that service is taken away that we are reminded of how important it is...

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Remembering That OTHER Outage started by acurrie View original post
    Comments 9 Comments
    1. howard's Avatar
      howard -
      There was a outage last year on Rogers too.

      I remember we had a forum meet in North York around the time of the 2003 outage.

      Unfortunately I don't remember what phone I was using back then.
    1. acurrie's Avatar
      acurrie -
      "I don't remember which 5 phones I was using back then."

    1. beachlover333's Avatar
      beachlover333 -
      My Bell service lasted for a few hours into the blackout, but that was it. You are saying Fido was up the entire time?
    1. TelecomZombie's Avatar
      TelecomZombie -
      Quote Originally Posted by anitahurley View Post
      until I looked at the paycheck ov $7386, I did not believe that...my... mom in-law actualey earning money parttime from there new laptop.. there brothers friend has been doing this for only 14 months and just now repaid the mortgage on their villa and bought a new Mercedes-Benz S-class. visit homepage........................
      Use Sum off dat mony 2 learn Engrish
    1. TelecomZombie's Avatar
      TelecomZombie -
      Ontario may be headed for another Outage Shortage in Future with insufficient electricity for Industry or mining in NWO. Long term problem illustrious governments doing nothing about. Iam not supporting Nuclear power just pointing out an issue for this province where we appear to being positioned for Service and Natural Resource extraction employment and nothing much else. Importing Electricity from US Coal Burning plants is not viable and no cleaner than Ontarios ones.

      Self Sufficiency be damned !

      If not new nuclear plants, what’s Ontario plan?

      What will power Ontario’s electricity system if the role of nuclear power shrinks?

      If the Ontario government has ruled out building new nuclear plants and coal plants — and if natural gas-fired plants are political poison — what’s left for Ontario?

      The Liberal government confirmed Thursday that it has scrapped the proposal to spend more than $10 billion to build two new nuclear reactors at the Darlington power station — a decision that knocks 2,000 planned megawatts out of the power supply.

      Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said the government is, however, committed to refurbishing the existing Darlington nuclear station, which supplies about 20 per cent of Ontario’s electricity.

      The amount of power knocked out of the supply is significant: Ontario needed about 18,000 megawatts of power on Thursday, a day with moderate weather. On a very hot or cold day, it can need up to 25,000 megawatts.

      In addition, the existing Pickering nuclear station, which generates about 3,000 megawatts of power, is due to close at the end of the decade.

      Not building the new reactors, while shutting down Pickering, will be a real shrinkage in the role of nuclear energy, which now supplies about half the province’s power.

      And it sharpens the question: What’s next?

      The Liberals have been far more definitive about what they’ve ruled out that what they’ve ruled in.

      Ontario will also close the last of its coal-fired generating plants by the end of 2014, fulfilling a promise made in 2003. Their role has been shrinking: They now supply only about 3 per cent of the province’s power.

      And the billion-dollar decision to relocate gas plants from Mississauga and Oakville will make it harder to build new gas generators.

      So what are the alternatives?


      Green groups have long argued that conservation is better than building new plants. They’ve also questioned whether there’s really a thirst for new power, noting that consumption in Ontario dropped 10 per cent between 2005 and 2012.

      The ten billion dollar cost of a couple of new nuclear reactors could fund a lot of conservation programs.

      Chiarelli said in July that he was adopting a “conservation first” policy.

      It sounds like a simple principle, but fierce arguments can break out over the real cost of various alternatives. One example: Natural gas is now cheap. But when putting a price on power for natural gas plants, should there be a cost attributed to the plants’ carbon emissions?

      •Hydro-electric projects:

      Ontario Power Generation is beefing up its hydro-electric capacity.

      The biggest project is expanding capacity on a series of power plants on the Lower Mattagami River in northwestern Ontario, which will add 438 megawatts to the system.

      OPG also just carved a new tunnel through the escarpment at Niagara Falls to feed more water to the Queenston generating station. The tunnel should add about one per cent to the province’s power output — enough to supply a city the size of Kingston.

      •Other renewable power sources:

      The McGuinty government based much of its energy policy on a big increase in wind, solar and other renewable sources. But a backlash against wind power helped devastate the Liberals’ ranks in rural Ontario in the election of 2011. The Liberals now say they won’t force wind projects on unwilling communities.

      Dozens of rural municipalities, especially in western Ontario, have since declared themselves “unwilling hosts” for wind farms. That could hamper future expansion of wind power.

      Solar power has been a costly option, but the cost of solar equipment is steadily dropping, and the industry says it will be competitive with other forms of power by the end of the decade.

      •Imported power:

      The Ontario Clean Air Alliance has recently been making the case for importing more power from Quebec’s massive hydro-electric projects.

      The alliance argues that power from Quebec would cost about half of the cost of power from new nuclear stations.

      Most of Quebec’s exports are shipped to the U.S., but the alliance says they are under short term contracts. Ontario, the alliance argues, could snap up much more of Quebec’s export power, though the transmission links between the provinces would have to be expanded.

      The alliance has also advocated building many more small-scale gas-fired plants in urban areas that can generate power when needed, as well as supplying heating to nearby buildings.
    1. acurrie's Avatar
      acurrie -
      Quote Originally Posted by beachlover333 View Post
      My Bell service lasted for a few hours into the blackout, but that was it. You are saying Fido was up the entire time?
      Near as I can remember, yes. It may have gone down during the night but everything, including electricity, was back up the next morning -- at least in downtown Toronto.
    1. IamAllan's Avatar
      IamAllan -
      I remember that my apartment (and the apartment above in the house), the bus shelter 100 meters away, and Tim Horton's some 500 meters away, were the only 3 places with power during that weekend. Oh, we lost power for an hour, or so, but we came back on quite fast. It was strange that so few places had power though.
    1. HC - NO "i"'s Avatar
      HC - NO "i" -

      The late Helmsley has started a thread back then...


      And several of us had observed how resilient Fido and TELUS were during the 2003 great blackout.
    1. E2EK1EL's Avatar
      E2EK1EL -
      My Rogers cellphone was working after a brief down time.
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