I’ve been scanning the official minutes of various state public utility commission meetings. A theme that runs throughout is incompetence — both the regulators and the utilities’ employees repeatedly use incorrect terms that reveal their ignorance of the technologies under discussion.
In one meeting, both sides referred multiple times to a minimum data transmission speed of “28.8 kilobytes per second”, when clearly they should have been discussing 28.8 kilobits per second — an error by a factor of 8.
In another meeting, all parties repeatedly referred to “128,000 baud”, which is meaningless unless we specify modulation method. Probably “128 kilobits per second” was intended — an error by a factor of at least four — but this is just a guess. (The last modem I used that encoded one bit per baud was a 300 bps modem, in 1978. Higher speed modems encode more bits per baud.) An AT&T manager erroneously implied that only ISDN is provided at “128,000 baud”.
Public utility commission meetings which are contaminated by incorrect vocabulary, misinformation, and the wrong units of measure waste time and resources. Taxpayers and utility customers pay for this waste. Presumably meeting attendees approve the minutes before they’re published. Doesn’t anyone proofread them?
Stop wasting subscribers’ money
I propose that before a representative of a utility or a member of a regulatory commission is allowed to discuss data services, that they first pass a simple test of knowledge of DC circuits, AC circuits, communication fundamentals, and units of measure. I’m sure that this will be unpopular with the windbags. So what? The public deserves to be represented by people who at least understand the vocabulary.
Oct 24: I fear that this article may imply that most of the recorded commission meetings contain errors. In fact, based upon my small sampling, only a minority of the dialogue contains technical misinformation. However, when misinformation is introduced, it’s rarely questioned, indicating that all parties in attendance are equally clueless.
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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695