Unruly solar flares, broadband outages could presage connected world problems

A pair of disparate news bits--increasingly active solar flares and an AT&T (NYSE: T) U-verse broadband breakdown--recently offered a foreboding and somewhat ominous glimpse of what the future could hold--at least for an increasingly connected society. It wasn't pretty.

First doomsday reports suggested a series of solar flares in 2013 might go beyond routine and cause more than a case of nasty sunburn.

"The concern of a strong solar flare in the direction of Earth is legit," Seton Hall University professor Jose Lopez told Fox News in a story reported by The Inquisitr. "The possibility [is] that such a sun burst could hit Earth and could cause extensive damage as it would charge-up our electrical equipment and destroy [it]."

In short, the flares will toast the nation's aging electrical grid, which will fail and throw massive portions of the population back to the stone age--at least for a brief time.

It's probably nothing to lose sleep over--and if the power's out your electric alarm won't work anyway, so you'll get even more shuteye. But then another news bit served up a taste of what a disconnected society could face. The AT&T U-verse network suffered something between a hiccup and a major stomach virus, throwing untold consumers into despair.

AT&T said a faulty server was responsible, and consumers in areas affected by that server quickly learned how fully they've given their lives to the connected world. Imagine (if you're not a U-verse subscriber who actually experienced it) the helpless feeling of being unable to access your Facebook account or, even more dire, your online banking account. Imagine sitting by idly while the world's news was delivered via the daily newspaper because CNN and its ilk were unavailable on TV or online. Imagine being unable to pick up your Viggle points because you didn't have access to broadband, nor did you have a working TV.

It was, for those who cover the connected space, a reminder that you need the Internet to be part of a global society.

Perhaps these were just isolated incidents and the world will turn as it always has. The sun will flare up, as it periodically does, and tanning salons will lose a little business, but the power grid will continue to churn away. AT&T has repaired the errant server and history will record a moment of temporary inconvenience and nothing more.

Or, being the glass half empty sort, look at the other side. Solar flares disrupt the power grid and the public not only loses broadband and TV but also loses energy for its homes and cars and businesses. And, because there are more servers in more places, broadband/TV disruptions spread like the flu to other service providers.

Just a few things to ponder as you multi-task in your multiscreen entertainment center cocoon. -Jim