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Unprecedented winter weather conditions last week left Texas in peril as the power grid went down, the result of single-digit temperatures and snowstorms which are all but unheard of in the southern state. The recent mass-blackout situation has left many around the United States wondering if they could experience the same disruption in the event of a major weather emergency.
Understanding how the power grid works is key to learning how the power supply in parts of Texas was completely decimated during the weather anomaly. The main power grid in the U.S. is made up of three sections: eastern, western, and ERCOT (Energy Reliability Council of Texas). These sections are known as ‘interconnections’ on the North American power grid, and operate independently of one another on their respective sides of the continent. The diagram above illustrates how the grid is separated by state. Texas is the only state in the U.S. that relies on an independent power grid to provide approximately 90% of its residents with electricity.
A clearer picture of the problem behind the Texas blackouts emerges when we analyze how the system operates on a national scale. This type of grid technology improves the reliability, scalability, and efficiency of the networks; it also allows for even distribution of power across the network, even in the event of a system failure on one part of the grid. Because the vast majority of Texans get their power from a small, localized power grid, fewer system failures due to incidents like weather events can cause extensive blackout emergencies such as the one we witnessed last week.
The fatal power outages in Texas have led many to question why the state would choose to operate on the apparently riskier independent ERCOT interconnection, as opposed to connecting to the eastern and/or western interconnections. The answer, given the state’s reputation for right-leaning policies, isn’t particularly surprising:
To avoid federal regulation.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Power Act in 1935, which tasked the Federal Power Commission with overseeing and regulating interstate electricity sales. By maintaining a power grid that did not cross state lines, Texas effectively dodged federal energy regulation until 1970. The ERCOT was established that year following a mass blackout incident in the Northeast in 1965, for the purpose of keeping the independent grid’s reliability up to national standards.
While the cause of the blackouts may seem clear based on this information, Tex gov. Greg Abbott appeared on Fox News claiming that the loss of renewables during the storm was to blame for the outage that affected 4 million Texans last week.
“Our wind and our solar got shut down … and that thrust Texas into this situation where it was lacking power at a statewide basis” Abbott told Fox News.
Other politicians made similar claims following Abbott’s interview on Hannity last Tuesday.
Abbot and Fox news have since been slammed with retaliation from a slew of other media outlets, who insist that the loss of renewable energy sources was not to blame for the rolling blackouts. Though it is true that wind and solar power were lost during the storm, ERCOT officials stated that non-renewable energy sources accounted for double the power loss of renewables at a press conference that took place the same day as the Hannity interview.
As of Sunday, one week after the deadly storm enveloped the state in a thick sheet of snow and ice, most Texas homes and businesses have been reconnected to power.
More and More States are Looking to Provide Universal Broadband
Some states in America now see broadband internet as a universal right and are fighting to give it to all of their residents. And some of these states are now using the recently-passed American Rescue Plan as a way to do it.
In July of 2021, Virginia governor Ralph Northan announced a major plan that will expand broadband access to all Virginia residents by the year 2024. To make this plan a reality, Northam intends to use $700 million in federal funds set aside by the American Rescue Plan, which was passed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to assist citizens and states struggling to make ends meet. In total, more than $4 billion was promised to Virginia so Northam’s plan will just use a portion of the total sum.
Virginia isn’t alone in its quest to give all residents broadband access. Others such as Connecticut and the nation’s most-populated state, California, are promising to find ways to fund broadband for all. Connecticut’s plan is more comprehensive than California’s, with a goal of 2027 set in place. There is a good chance that more states will follow the lead created by these states as the demand for universal broadband becomes stronger and the need becomes more apparent.
In 2020, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia crated a report that found one in five Virginia students lacked high-speed internet or a computer at home. Broadband coverage has always been sparse in rural areas, with many residents unable to even pay for the service. The Coronavirus pandemic only highlighted the need for internet access for all citizens, as most were forced to work from home and all students were required to attend classes online. More and more people and politicians are beginning to speak out, stating that broadband access is a right that all Americans are entitled to.
With the 2022 mid-term elections beginning to loom over the American political landscape, the idea of creating broadband access for all Americans is becoming more and more popular, and will likely be a major debate point for politicians seeking office.
How Windows 365 Can Benefit Businesses
It’s no secret that Microsoft has been moving more towards digitizing many of their services. Xbox Cloud Gaming brings console gaming to a wider variety of users, lowering the barrier of entry and bringing the optimum experience to more devices. Now with the official upcoming release of Windows 365, Microsoft will again improve accessibility to one of their most popular services – Windows.
Windows 365 is the latest in cloud computing services (a development on their existing Azure) which allows anyone with app store or web browser access to be able to stream a full Windows 10/11 PC to their device. Laptops, tablets, phones, and even old PCs can act as a light client for the virtual PC (similar to a Virtual Machine), including Apple devices.
As a result, businesses all around the world can take advantage of the benefits provided by a consistent, cloud-accessible, and scalable solution for computing anywhere.
4 Major Benefits of Windows 365 for Business
Maintain a Uniform Experience Between Devices
One of the major problems resulting from the new hybrid workspaces that have developed as a result of COVID restrictions has been the inability to access work computers. Your company PC is likely to have all your work files, sufficient hardware, and the programs you need to do your job. But, you can’t always take your desktop home with you.
Windows 365 helps by creating a single virtual PC instance that maintains its state even when logged out. That means that if you leave something unfinished on your office PC, you can resume it directly from your laptop, tablet, or phone at home with the same resources available. No matter where it’s accessed from, Windows 365 provides a uniform experience to all devices.
Minimize Hardware Costs
Computer hardware advances quickly – and so do the expenses if you’re trying to stay up to date. All businesses need optimal performance from their hardware but it doesn’t make sense to replace computers regularly.
Windows 365 allows you to turn just about any device with a screen into a full-fledged Windows 10/11 PC. Old laptops, cell phones, and a variety of low-cost devices can act as mobile workstations without the investment it would take to achieve that performance with hardware.
On-Demand Performance Scaling
Do you ever wish you had more computer performance? Of course you do – and with Windows 365, you can get it with just a few clicks.
Businesses with Windows 365 accounts are able to assign resource plans to individual users that are part of their network. As long as a vacant subscription exists, administrators can change the plan tied to the user to something more powerful immediately. This unlocks more processing power and other resources, allowing for optimal performance when it is needed without hardware upgrades required.
Easy Onboarding of New Members
Whether you’re a growing startup or a seasonal business looking to bring in more help, onboarding with Windows 365 is as simple as ever.
To provide access to business files, resources, programs, and other important information, business owners can simply provide an account to the new employee on their network. They’ll immediately have access to a virtual business PC with everything they need – no dropbox, email attachments, or flash drives required.
SEC Arrives at Settlement with First American Financial Two Years After Breach of Data
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) pressed charges against First American Financial, a real estate company, for failing to abide by disclosure requirements and procedures. The acts of non-compliance came after personal identifying customer information was breached in 2019, including social security numbers and financial data. First American was found to be liable for having immense vulnerabilities in their cybersecurity management, rendering them in violation of Rule 13a-15(a) of the Exchange Act.
Shockingly, First American’s information security team discovered said vulnerabilities months in advance of senior management’s response to the incident, but they did not comply with company policies by advising their superiors about it. First American initially learned of the mishap, which consisted of at least 800 million images being revealed unintentionally, when a cybersecurity journalist contacted them with the unfortunate news. Despite First American rapidly issuing a statement once leadership learned of the incident, they were penalized for the overall poor structure of compliance regarding security of their electronic data.
The severity of this incident was emphasized through statements reiterating that all of the confidential information accidentally leaked was within reach of anyone who had access to the internet. Furthermore, the company’s reputation took another huge blow when they were confronted with accusations of failing to implement a sufficient cybersecurity system by the New York State Department of Financial Services’ Cybersecurity Regulation in July of 2020.
Although First American did not outright admit to any wrongdoing, they accepted a cease and desist order and settled their mistakes by paying a $487,616 fine. First American expressed gratitude for the resolution that was reached, and they asserted that complying with disclosure mandates set forth by the SEC will continue to be a priority for them. The penalty imposed on First American for their faults is sure to set an example for their industry, especially considering they hold 21.07% of the market share and are one of four top mortgage title companies.