Ina Fried

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All It Took Was a Hurricane to Make Utility Company Mobile Sites Popular

As Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast last week, many key mobile Web sites got a major boost in traffic.

Transit authorities, airlines and weather sites all saw a spike in mobile visits.

Mobile Web site developer Usablenet said that between Monday and Thursday of last week it saw airline sites with nearly double the usual traffic, transportation sites with a nearly sixfold increase, and telecommunications sites with more than double the usual traffic.

But perhaps the biggest increase in mobile traffic was for a couple of utilities’ mobile Web sites. Those sites saw a 16,000 percent increase in traffic — or 160 times normal. (Not a lot of people check on their gas bill or seek some power-saving tips from their phone.)

“In many areas cell service was the only means of communication, even if slow,” Usablenet CMO Carin van Vuuren said in an email. “Many of the cable providers were badly affected by the storm and service was not available in most areas where power was affected.”

Usablenet said it extracted the data from 10 of the relevant mobile Web sites it manages, including Con Edison, Connecticut Light & Power, the MTA and Amtrak.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work