This Day On The Street
Continue to site
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here

The Digital Skeptic: Sandy Shows Where Web Is Weak

HARRISON, N.Y. ( TheStreet) -- Note to whomever we send to the White House tonight: Besides the national debt, foreign policy and unemployment, here's another uber-problem to solve: The "information superhighway" has turned out to be anything but super durable.

Although I am ridiculously fortunate to have escaped with only a few downed trees and a week of lost power here, Hurricane Sandy has taught me a big investor lesson: What passes for Internet infrastructure -- you know, the mishmash of the real wired, wireless, power and computer technologies virtual things run on -- is nothing more than a techno bucket of bolts.

And considering the cost, complexity and uncertainty in doing business on the Web, it is no wonder information giants such as Google (GOOG - Get Report), Facebook (FB) and Amazon (AMZN - Get Report) see their margins shrink.

The World Wide Web will need a worldwide rebuild before anybody ever makes any real money with the thing.

The nonworking Web
The issue with the Internet is, of course, there is no single point of contact -- or responsibility -- for keeping the Web working. We all use a mix of cellphones, wired Internet and enterprise service providers to access our digital content. Most of the time the thing hums along, safely out of sight underneath the Web's digital hood.

But because I run a cloud-based content shop -- and test cloud-based content tools in the process -- my colleagues and I were in the fascinating position of touching essentially every Web provisioning technology as the storm swept through.

We used 3G and 4G cell modems and cellular voice service from Verizon (VZ - Get Report), Clear (CLWR), AT&T (T - Get Report) and Sprint (S) to file stories and check facts. We made calls from various broadband phones such as those from Vonage (VG). We accessed the Web with Verizon fiber as well as Time Warner (TWC) traditional cable and many others.

And as Sandy ravaged our network, we saw firsthand how these platforms wobbled from nonfunctioning to barely functioning to high-functioning -- and back again -- seemingly at random.

Home-fired fiber
Here is just one example of the stubborn issues Sandy revealed: While 100-foot oak trees crushed power lines and homes, somehow Verizon fiber networking lines stayed connected to my home office. The catch is that fiber plants such as those Verizon sells need external power to function. Verizon tries to do the right thing; it installs its FiOS product with a battery backup for emergencies. But in battery mode, it turned out phone service worked, but data would not.
1 of 2

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Action Alerts PLUS

Portfolio Manager Jim Cramer and Director of Research Jack Mohr reveal their investment tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
Quant Ratings

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
Stocks Under $10

David Peltier uncovers low dollar stocks with serious upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
14-Days Free
Only $9.95
14-Days Free
Dividend Stock Advisor

David Peltier identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Trifecta Stocks

Every recommendation goes through 3 layers of intense scrutiny—quantitative, fundamental and technical analysis—to maximize profit potential and minimize risk.

Product Features:
  • Model Portfolio
  • Intra Day Trade alerts
  • Access to Quant Ratings
Real Money

More than 30 investing pros with skin in the game give you actionable insight and investment ideas.

Product Features:
  • Access to Jim Cramer's daily blog
  • Intraday commentary and news
  • Real-time trading forums
Only $49.95
14-Days Free
14-Days Free
AMZN $659.59 9.57%
GOOG $693.01 0.29%
S $3.43 -4.19%
T $38.82 0.47%
VZ $50.94 -0.16%


Chart of I:DJI
DOW 17,773.64 -57.12 -0.32%
S&P 500 2,065.30 -10.51 -0.51%
NASDAQ 4,775.3580 -29.9330 -0.62%

Free Reports

Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs