Service Dependencies

The idea that network services should act independently of each other has proven to be a very sound one but more and more dependencies continue to creap into the urban system's network services.

When the electricity goes out, we do not expect out water to stop too.

A curious development in U.S. homes has effectively caused a great deal of interdependence between electric power service and wireline communications network: The phone line of most homes is connected to a wireless home phone base which is electrically powered.

When the electricity goes out, there is no wireline phone service unless the home is equiped with an old-fashioned rotary phone or a simple digital phone powered by the phone lines from the central office.

We usually overlook this simple dependency in the U.S. because power outages are so rare. They do happen, though, and often at the worst time, for example, when you're home alone with a bad case of flu. My home was among 26 affected by a power outage from early morning until late afternoon this past Friday. Not only was I unable to receive or place calls from my home phone (yes, my mobile did work and had been charged the night before), the DSL was also out rendering my laptop (and Skype installed on it) useless even if it had a good amount of power left in its batteries. (In my case, I could neither make tea nor warm any soup for lunch.)

Of course the phone network continues to operate regardless of power outages. The dependency is at the outermost endpoints of this network and the electric network. Since most people are equiped with mobile phones, and since those older consumers who stay away from them usually have some rotary phone at home, the dependency may not be as disasaterous as it first sounds.

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