First came Sandy, which wreaked havoc in the Northeast. Millions of people were left without electricity, so the internet was pretty much unavailable. Cell phones ran out of juice, and that was when they were near cell towers that were still working. In the middle of all this, people stayed as warm as they could and watched battery-powered TVs and radios for news and entertainment. As Phil Kurz wrote in Broadcast Engineering Blog, “Even as this week’s hurricane should raise serious doubts about the reliability of cellular service in an emergency, television broadcasters continue to transmit lifesaving alerts and information to the public.”
Then came Tuesday’s election, which drowned out most of the discussion of the performance of the internet during the returns. Analytic sites such as Electoral-Vote.com beefed up with extra servers but were still swamped. Long-standing media sites such as CNN saw page loads slow to a crawl, when they worked at all. During all that, the broadcast and cable news channels kept a constant update of the latest information.
The internet and broadcast should complement each other. Nothing matches the drill-down, on-demand information that the internet can provide, and so far, nothing matches the one-to-many outreach that broadcast TV supplies. As the wireless industry works to wrest away chunks of free TV spectrum, we should remember that a lot of times, wireless is cool, but broadcasting is important.