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News and comments on community broadband networks, the communities deploying them and the technologies that support them. Published by Denise Frey and Al Bonnyman.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2003


Blackout 2003: With the lights back on, the knives come out ...

Before anyone even really knows what caused the accident, reporters are digging up old dirt on First Energy, aided by long-time critics of the utility:

First Energy's own comments ring very true but are buried halfway down the page of one of these stories:
"DiNicola disputed the theory that the company's lines could have left so many millions without power, saying, 'It would be the equivalent of you plugging in a hair dryer and shutting down the entire city of Cleveland.'"

At least one New York law firm has already rushed to file a class action lawsuit against First Energy even though the investigation into the real causes is just beginning.

Meanwhile, a left-wing British paper that's been bitterly critical of U.S. foreign policy is blaming the blackout on Bush.

In Connecticut, the state Attorney General is seeking to turn off the underwater cable to Long Island again because it lacks the proper environmental permits (it's been in place for months but was only energized over the weekend under a federal emergency order). This comes as Connecticut's neighbors are objecting to paying for upgrades to the regional transmission grid to shore up Connecticut's system, the weakest link and located in the region's wealthiest state:

"Energy companies in New England and regulators from several states are proposing that ratepayers in Boston, Bangor, Brattleboro, and the rest of New England should equally bear the cost of the Connecticut improvements, because they would improve the reliability of the overall transmission system in the region. Under that approach, Massachusetts ratepayers would pay almost half of the $700 million cost."

Kentucky is already indicating that they think their power system is just fine and that they don't intend to pick up part of the tab for improvements elsewhere.

So what really caused the blackout?

Investigators are still seeking clues, but they already know unusual events were occurring some time before lines finally started failing in First Energy's territory, as this article on communications failures points out. For instance, the Lansing, Michigan municipal utility's operators were seeing "irregularities".


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