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Shipping has already quadrupled this year through the melting Arctic

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The Suez Canal has new competition. Captains watching the creation of a rare new ocean passage–the Northern Sea Route through the melting Arctic—say that shipping has quadrupled (paywall) over just the last year. The route’s governing body—known as the Northern Sea Route Administration—has so far granted permission for 213 shipping trips through the passage this year. As this chart shows, that is up from 46 in 2012, 34 in 2011 and four in 2010.

It’s actually a slow buildup—over the next couple of decades, traffic could be up 30-fold and ships could be moving a full quarter of the Asia-Europe trade through the Arctic, experts estimate. One of the main goods will be liquefied natural gas from northern Europe and Russia.

The time ships save by traversing the new ocean passage is significant. A ship traveling from Rotterdam takes 33 days via the Suez Canal to reach South Korea, 10 days more than the 23 days via the Northern Sea Route.

But the Suez need not feel threatened—not yet anyway. The 2012 Arctic traffic was 1.25 metric tons compared with 740 metric tons through the Suez. Before the Northern Sea Route truly gets busy, ports must be built for safety and relief purposes, and insurers will need to get more comfortable with the Arctic passage to lower their higher premiums for that route.


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eas
3313 days ago
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Shipping is actually a significant contributor to global climate change, so, this could actually have a mitigating effect. Not enough of one though.
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The biggest opportunity in mobile right now isn’t on smartphones

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Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg is looming large in emerging markets.

Facebook has noticed something that other companies would do well to heed: The biggest opportunity right now isn’t in smartphones, where users are bombarded by the fruits of an ever-more-competitive market for apps and mobile services. Rather, the big play for some companies, especially any that wish to expand into emerging markets, is on the “dumbphones”—aka non-smartphones, or in industry parlance, feature phones—that most people in rich countries have now left behind.

We’ve known for some time that Facebook’s strategy for grabbing its “next billion” users is to convince them that Facebook and the web are one and the same by making access to Facebook free on every model of phone. But now Javi Olivan, head of “growth and analytics” at Facebook has dribbled out a handful of other interesting details about Facebook’s strategy.

The first is that, since Quartz first reported on it a year ago, Facebook’s push to get onto feature phones, which still comprise half of all phone sales worldwide, has accelerated. The service Facebook is working on is called Facebook for Every Phone, and it allows people with data plans on their feature phones  to have smartphone-like experiences while using Facebook—meaning they get images, updates, chat, the whole thing. The secret is that most of the processing for Facebook For Every Phone is done on Facebook’s servers, in the cloud, and a minimal stream of data is trickled out to feature phones, which tend to be on slower networks in emerging markets.

Facebook for Every Phone is now on 100 million feature phones, which means almost a tenth of Facebook’s billion-plus users are accessing Facebook through devices on which Facebook isn’t normally accessible.

The second thing about Facebook’s push onto feature phones is that more and more of these devices can access the web. As Ran Makavy, head of Facebook’s feature phone initiative, told the New York Times, it wasn’t long ago that only about 2% of all feature phones could access the web. Now that figure is more like 25 percent, and he thinks “there is a pretty long runway still.”

In other words, billions of people the world over are going to start accessing the web through their feature phones, and in the rush to equip people with the latest and greatest, web experiences on these devices are likely to be an under-served market. Facebook is happy to occupy this space, but other companies should be, too, such as Jana, which is arguably the largest payment platform on earth, and can reach 2 billion people in emerging markets.

One issue, as always, with emerging markets, is that consumers here do not have as much disposable income as people in rich countries. Facebook just rolled out a platform to advertise to people in emerging markets via, among other services, Facebook for Every Phone, but it’s not clear yet how lucrative this effort will be. Even if Facebook can’t make money on these nascent web users right away, convincing them that Facebook is integral to the web is the sort of trick that will help the company continue to grow as these consumers graduate to smartphones, tablets and other more sophisticated means to connect.


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eas
3313 days ago
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If a company's best chances for growth are to enter a dying market segment, something seems wrong.

There are exceptions, but this doesn't seem like one of them.
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Surprise drop in iPad sales shows the market for Apple’s tablet has saturated

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Sales of iPads jumped with the introduction of the iPad Mini, but are otherwise stagnant. Ritchie King/Quartz

Apple sold 5.4 million fewer iPads in its most recent quarter than it did in the same three months a year ago. That’s despite having introduced a whole new iPad, the Mini, in the intervening year. The drop in iPad sales, from 17 million to 14.6 million, is all the more surprising because iPhone sales continued to grow, from 26 million to 31.2 million.

Use of those iPads, however, is running in the opposite direction. Data just released from Adobe show that, as of this month, tablets overall are driving more traffic to websites than smartphones. And, of course, Apple dominates the market for tablets.

Tablets drive more web traffic than smartphones, despite being only a fraction as numerous. Adobe

In other words, it’s not that tablets aren’t useful—clearly, people are using them more than ever, and primarily to replace PCs. Nor is it the case that Apple’s iPad itself is suffering (all that much) at the hands of Android. Overall, Apple’s mobile iOS is beating Android in terms of web traffic, in the US at least, precisely because of heavy use of the iPad.

Apple’s iOS is beating Android for web traffic in the US, despite there being many more Android devices. Adobe

Rather, it seems that the overall market for tablets is beginning to saturate, leading to slowing sales of the iPad. Pew recently found that 34% of American adults now own a tablet, with even higher penetration among households earning $75,000 or more (56%) and college graduates (49%). It’s certainly possible that the drop in iPad sales is due to cannibalization by Android tablets—which now have almost the same global market share as iPads and are shipping in greater numbers each quarter—but many of those tablets are of the cheaper, lower-end variety.

The same trend toward cheaper tablets can be seen in Apple’s own numbers for average revenue per iPad sold. As consumer preference shifts to the cheaper iPad Mini, this revenue continues to drop.

iPad_Revenue_chart

And, just to prove that the trend in iPad revenue isn’t due to increasing costs per unit, here’s a chart of Apple’s overall revenue from iPads, which exactly tracks the number of iPads sold each quarter (the first chart in this piece).

Quarterly-revenue-from-iPad-sales_chart

Both the relatively high penetration of Apple’s iPad among the affluent and well-educated and the success of lower-end Android tablets point to the same conclusion: The market for iPads, which consists of people ready to pay $320 for an iPad Mini or $500 for a full-size iPad, is saturating.

At those price points, and given the limitations of an iPad compared to a notebook computer, the iPad is only a “PC replacement” for people who can afford to buy both a PC and a tablet. That’s not as big a market as, say, the billions of people who might buy a cheap Android tablet instead of a PC or even a smartphone, and Apple’s latest numbers suggest the company is now exploring the limits of that market.

There is one more thing these numbers suggest: People are happy to replace their phones on a regular basis, as new models cram in substantial new features (a larger screen, a better display) and the devices are lost, stolen or broken. But tablets simply last longer, leading to a longer replacement cycle.


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eas
3313 days ago
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Not exactly credible since it doesn't acknowledge that the iPad product cycle has seen some major shifts since Q312. The retina iPad was new then. Since then, Apple has realigned the cycle around fall releases.
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Entropy Crushers

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When it was five of you sitting the same room, it was easy. When someone needed to know something, they stood up in the middle of the room and asked, "Who broke the build?" When a decision needed to be made, you looked up at Phil and said, "Phil, this needs to scale from day one, right?" and Phil nodded. In a nod, you defined the entirety of your product performance plan. When someone was struggling or was blocked, you could tell because they were swearing profusely at the monitor - directly across from you.

I should help him.

But now it's 105 of you. You're spread out over two floors of the building, you're working on two products, and you're approaching the dreaded moment where you don't know the name of someone on your team. This is the first of many warnings that the team needs to evolve.

I want to make the argument that it's time for project managers.

WHOA WHOA WAIT RANDS WHOOOAAAAAAAAA. We've got a self-starter engineering culture, we're flat, and we're not about to dilute that culture with... project managers.

I've run into this response a lot. When I hear this knee-jerk reaction I hear the following:

  • Most engineers don't know what a project manager does, and if they do, they usually don't know what a good one looks like.
  • Crap project managers have ruined the reputation of the gig.
  • By suggesting you don't need project managers, you're saying that you, an engineer, want to do this work and my question is, "Do you or do you not want to be an engineer?"

The Project Rules

First, some definition. Project manager, product manager, and program manager. Let's clear that up. A project manager is responsible for shipping a product, whereas a product manager is responsible for making sure the right product is shipped. A program manager is an uber-mutated combination of both that usually shows up to handle multiple interrelated projects like, say, an operating system. Different companies use the names differently, but for this article, project = ship the product, product = ship the right product, and program = ship many interrelated products, usually at the same time. Got it?

Second, a rule: the addition of each new person on your team increases the cost of each of the following:

  1. Communication. How much effort is required to get Idea A and make sure it travels to all the necessary people?
  2. Decisions. How quickly can a group of people best choose Path A or Path B?
  3. Error Correction. How long does it take to detect and fix when something is going wrong?

Think of it like this: when it was five of you and one of you wanted to do a new feature, how'd it happen? Well, you did it. You wrote the feature in the morning, tested it after lunch, and then checked it in before dinner. The update to the team that a new feature landed was the check-in notification sitting in everyone's inbox and the silent nods as they read the check-in... Sweet, we needed that feature.

How does it happen now?

After the latest release, there's a feature review meeting where the team sits down and scrubs JIRA and comes up with feature nominations. Then they vote internally, and then they vote with the business development team. After those votes are counted, we do a prioritization pass before we send the list to the VP of Engineering, Phil, who takes the list and prioritizes it against his vision for the product. That takes two days and, invariably, we argue about prioritization.

Now we've got an initial list, but who is going to do the work? ASSIGNMENT MEETING! More debate about who should do what. Further arguments occur because there are cool features and not-cool features and features must be assigned carefully to fairly dish out the coolness. Sweet, features have been assigned, but first, we have to write a feature spec, which will then need to be vetted with the rest of the team to make sure we're writing the right feature. I would like to point out that a single line of code has yet to be written and I'm already exhausted.

Take a look at the work in the prior paragraphs. If you're a lead on a growing team, you have your unique version of this process, and to me, a huge chunk of this work is for the project manager. You already have a project manager and it's you. You're a full-time engineering manager, you're the leader of the people, and you're also a project manager. My guess is that on a growing team you're likely doing at least one of those jobs half-assed. Which means you're officially part of the problem.

A good project manager is one who elegantly and deftly handles information. They know what structured meetings need to exist to gather information; they artfully understand how to gather additional essential information in the hallways; and they instinctively manage to move that gathered information to the right people and the right teams at the right time.

There are humans who are really good at this. They thrive on it. Engineers have difficulty believing this - it's the same issue they have with managers. They see these strange humans focusing furiously and scurrying hither and yon and they wonder, "What are they actually building?" They're right. Project managers don't write code, they don't test the use cases, and they're not designing the interface. You know what a good project manager does? They are chaos destroying machines, and each new person you bring onto your team, each dependency you create, adds hard to measure entropy to your team. A good project manager thrives on measuring, controlling, and crushing entropy.

You did this easily when you were a team of five, but if you're going to succeed at 105, what was done organically now needs to be done mechanically.

The Project Concerns

I've heard a litany of concerns about the introduction of project managers. My response is a good starting point to understand who I believe the role fits on the team:

I am worried about project managers influencing product direction. Two points here: first, remember you're no longer in a world where everyone is doing everything. You miss the world because it made you agile, but you're just too big. You need role definition and that means being clear with everyone: Bob owns this, Frank owns that, Percy owns the other thing. What does "own" mean, Rands? Glad you asked.

To me, ownership means that a person is responsible for all decisions for the thing. They are accountable. At Apple, we called them Directly Responsible Individuals. You will likely call them something else. In this world of delicious new ownership, a good project manager owns the execution of the machine that makes sure everything is getting done. It's no more or less important than any other role, but it's essential to starting a project, understanding the health of that project, and deciding when you're done.

Second point: what kind of douchebag manager doesn't want every single person on the team to have an opinion about the product? Good project managers have a unique insight into the health of the project because it's their job to have visibility into the entire machine. It seems like they would have an informed opinion regarding the product.

I am worried about losing insight into what is going on. Tough news. As I've already mentioned, this is already happening as you add each new person to the team with the new set of opinions, values, and experience. An effective project manager instinctively creates artifacts of insight. It's their first question when arriving on the scene: "What... the fuck is going on here?" Your first conversation with your new project manager sounds like this: "I want to be able to measure X, Y, and Z and I'd like to be able to measure them on a weekly basis." The project manager will take this request and do their damnedest to find that data (and the people creating that data), efficiently mechanize its collection, and eventually present you the artifact. Given the chaos factor on your team, the work necessary to build this artifact varies wildly, but if you haven't seen a draft of any valuable artifact in two to three months, something is wrong.

There is no crap work on my team. This is a concern raised by someone who doesn't understand the role of a project manager or has been burned by crap project management. It was probably this meeting: you were sitting there meeting with the entire team where a project manager showed a Gantt chart on the wall and presented a partially informed opinion as fact. "We are three months from shipping." Everyone thinks, but does not say, "Bullshit." This partially informed person rambles for another 30 minutes, the meeting completes, everyone shuffles out, and the reputation of project managers as shovelers of bullshit is furthered. This was a crap meeting based on crap work.

There are a couple of memorable screw-ups in this meeting. First, you've got the a poorly defined artifact. Gantt charts are great at showing the order of operations for building software, but in the never in history of ever have they effectively been used to measure when to ship that software. Second, you've got the whole team staring at this useless artifact and the person presenting it - both of which are losing credibility by the second.

One of the easiest ways to screw up the landing of project managers on a team is not to be painfully aware of what you need out of the role. The way I've seen this screwed up is when the guy in charge says, "Well, this looks bad. You know, at Apple, we had engineering project managers. We should have engineering project managers. Go hire them."

Incorrect approach. You are not and never will be Apple. What your team, and your culture, needs out of a project manager is entirely dependent on the people, the team, the culture, the projects, and this moment in time. Top down declarations of necessity without deep understanding of the situation within the team are a terrific way to set up a new role for failure. The arrival of project managers (or whatever you end up calling them) needs to coincide with a clear and present danger to the product or the team. They are here to help with X because if we don't solve X, we are screwed.

I am worried that process nerds like project managers are going to kill creativity and innovation on my team. This isn't actually the issue that folks fear. What they're really saying is that they don't want to give up control, and again, I think this comes from prior awful interactions with project managers. See, the reputation of a project manager grows over time because of their penchant for knowing, well, everything. It can be intoxicating being the only person who knows you have the best assessment of the situation among the chaos, the person that everyone goes to because you have the information. There are project managers who go crazy with this power and become political. They become information brokers, which means they're precisely the opposite of the job. They're using information to control rather than to illuminate. My advice: fire these people as quickly as possible.

A good project manager's job is to decrease chaos by increasing clarity. I understand that chaos can be an essential ingredient in creative, but I guarantee you -- I promise you -- even with the best project manager on board, you still get to run around like a crazy person because the sky always unexpectedly falls. Chaos in a complex system is a guarantee.

The Question

As a lead, you have three jobs: people, process, and product, and you get to choose how to invest in each of those roles. As a demographic, you're likely best at product followed by process, and finally, by people. What's weird is that you seem to be spending all of your time working on the people part of the gig, right? You should hire a great people lead, right? Maybe, but perhaps the situation is that you're constantly talking with the people because the process piece is broken. You're serving as a person who moves information so that we're all on the same page, so that the people are happy and efficient. Do you love this job? Probably not.

My question remains: do you or do you not want to be an engineer? If this is what you love, even as a lead, this where you should spend your time. You're never going to code like you did when you were an individual contributor, but your company and your team will get disproportionate value from the work you do that best approximates engineering.

As with any evolutionary change on your team, you need to be paranoid. Each new role, like each new person, has a unique ability to affect the culture in ways that you'll never predict. You need to carefully design around your specific pain, but once you hire and land the first person, you also need to pay careful attention for unintended side effects. The irony of the arrival of crap project managers is that you're effectively punishing inefficiency with useless bureaucracy, which, wait for it, creates more inefficiency.

A great project manager is rare, but so is any great hire. However, my guess is that you want to be an engineer. You want to focus on the satisfying act of building, and I think you'd be crazy not to viciously protect this time.

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eas
3313 days ago
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popular
3319 days ago
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rmartinsjr
3318 days ago
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Boa definição de gerente de projetos!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Technicalleigh
3319 days ago
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I shared this "elsewhere" but it's worth sharing here too since it's pretty much exactly what my job is. Fact: my business cards list my title as "De-chaos-ifier"
Vancouver BC
Courtney
3319 days ago
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"Project managers don't write code, they don't test the use cases, and they're not designing the interface. You know what a good project manager does? They are chaos destroying machines, and each new person you bring onto your team, each dependency you create, adds hard to measure entropy to your team. A good project manager thrives on measuring, controlling, and crushing entropy." Pretty much, yep.
Portland, OR
RAddisonJones
3321 days ago
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Thoughts for you James...
Atlanta, Georgia

The Narrative Fails

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Its Friday (and Its a hot summer Friday at that), Friday, and as such, I like to wax philosophical about what I see around me as some of the broader issues

today.Cullen I see.Cullun

Roche of Pragmatic Capital sets the scene for us:

“The economy continues to do okay, the stock market is hitting all-time highs every day, real estate is back on the up and up, interest rates remain very low by historical terms, the net worth of Americans is back at all-time highs, we’ve just dragged ourselves out of the worst recession in 80 years, but people are still upset about a lot of things . . . I have a feeling that there’s more to this general unhappiness than meets the eye. And I think a lot of people are mad because the fear case has totally lost out at this point.”

He is precisely correct: A large source of angst is from those who missed the 146% rally to all time highs. Sell offs can be painful, but the mathematics of mean reversion are inescapable. Asset classes eventually recover, but if you fail to participate in a generational rally, it will haunt your compounded returns forever. Cullen implies that (beyond high unemployment) this it might be the source of this angst.

But there is a deeper, deeper more fundamental reason for the unfocused rage and misdirected anger: The failure of many of the narratives that have been driving much of economics, investing and politics. Rather than accepting certain unpleasant facts, many participants have contorted themselves into a painful waiting game. As John Kenneth Galbraith famously said, “Faced “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” Rather than accepting certain unpleasant realities, many participants have contorted themselves into a painful waiting game. They are “busy on the proof.”

The Galbraith quote reflects a favorite topic of ours – Cognitive Dissonance — and we have spilled more than a few pixels in these pages on the subject. As many of the narratives have failed, rather than admit the error and face the music, the rationales have morphed into a waiting game. Dow 5000 will happen eventually, 5000, Collapse of the Dollar — and all fiat currencies — is coming; Hyper-inflation (any day now), Gold will hit $10,000 (sold to you), (or all fiat currencies), Hyper-inflation, G0ld $10,000, Great Recession 2, Oil $200, etc. The reference is not to any one of these errors specifically, but rather, tot he entire narrative driven belief systems in general. They are by design money losing stories, either torturing the data or ignoring it entirely. generally.

Cullen gets more specific than I do in The Narrative Failing — he calls itThe Fear Trade Has Been Demolished:

“If you’ve been paying attention over the last few years, you probably remember how many people predicted hyperinflation, surging bond yields, soaring gold prices, a cratering US Dollar and a collapsing stock market. This was the fear trade. You overweight gold, short US government bonds, short the USD, short equities and laugh all the way to the bank. Parts of that trade have worked out OKAY (like the gold portion over the years), but on the whole that trade has been a big disaster. In other words, fear lost out – again.”

Here is where the rubber meets the road — the specific cognitive reaction to the narrative failure:

“A lot of people who bought into the fearmongering nonsense are angry. They’re angry because they backed their political beliefs with their wallet. They’re angry because they listened to so-called “experts” peddling their political beliefs as an understanding of the monetary system. They’re angry because they read scary websites that claim to have predicted the crisis, but have gotten almost everything wrong since 2008. They’re angry because they let their emotions get in the way of sound analysis.”

And that is what cognitive dissonance is all about. Its coming up short in your forecasts, and making all the usual its excuses. Its rationalizing why you yo0u are right and the markets are all wrong. Its doubling down on the bad trades, despite the obviously failure of the original thesis. Its sticking to your story no matter what the facts are. Who you gonna believe, me or your lyin’ eyes?

It is the triumph of narrative over planning, ideology over facts, politics over data, emotion over intelligence.

I see this everyday in the int he office. We speak with potential asset management clients who have this false understanding of the world, and we have to deprogram them from their diet of fear-mongered narrative driven insanity. I’ve looked at $100 million+ foundation money sitting in 50% TIPs, 50% Cash (nothing else). Cash. We keep seeing portfolios that are mostly junior gold miners all jumior gold minors and currency bets.

How is this for an astonishing but by no means surprising data point: In self-directed 401(k) plans, “The biggest single equity holding was Apple (AAPL) . . . followed by the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD), an exchange-traded fund.” (US News, 2012)

As of 2012, the two largest individual holdings in 401k were Apple (AAPL) and Gold ETF (GLD).

All of these trades represent the same cognitive foible: Investing by a well told if erroneous and unsupported story. And now, that Narrative has failed. The more adaptable, enlightened investors are learning the errors of their ways.

What narrative are you following?

UPDATE: Josh sends me the link to Greg Harmon’s similar take here: You Have Been Calling for A Crash for 6 Months and Been Wrong, Now What?

Previously:
The Cognitive Dissidents (November 14th, 2011)

The Dangers of Non-Modeled Narrative Story Tellers (December 3rd, 2012)

Why don’t bad ideas ever die? (December 16 2012)

Rise of the Empiricists (January 29th, 2013)

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Rising Interest Rates Will Soon Make Needed Infrastructure Repairs More Costly

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Rising interest rates could mean the window to fix infrastructure on the cheap is closing
Barry Ritholtz,
Washington Post, July 12

 

 

Thanks to the Federal Reserve’s zero interest rates and quantitative easing policies, borrowing costs are near generational lows. The costs of funding the repair and renovation of America’s decaying infrastructure are as cheap as they have been since World War II.

But the era of cheap credit may be nearing its end. And thanks to a dysfunctional Washington, D.C., we are on the verge of missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Back in an October 2011 column, we discussed the many ways repairing our fraying infrastructure could help the United States’ economy. Our transportation grid has gotten old and out of shape. The interstate highway system is in disrepair. Bridges are rusting away, with some collapsing now and then. The electrical grid is a patchwork of jury-rigged fixes, vulnerable to blackouts and foreign cyberattacks. The cellular network of the United States is a laughingstock versus Asia’s or Europe’s coverage. Two years later, none of that has really changed.

The argument then was that a major infrastructure repair program would create jobs, keep us competitive with China and improve the security of our ports, energy facilities and electrical grid. And as a fantastic bonus, borrowing costs for funding these repairs were at the lowest levels in a century. Imagine the least costly way to improve and repair our infrastructure imaginable, and that was what was available to us: the deal of the century.

All of the above remains true — except the bit about ultra-low rates. They have begun to move higher as markets anticipate the end of the Fed’s quantitative easing. The most widely held U.S. Treasury, the 10-year bond, was yielding about 2.6 percent late last week — a full percentage point higher than in early May. The 30-year bond, which we tend to think of as the cost of funding infrastructure that will last for decades, has risen almost as fast.

As a nation, we still have a window to take advantage of these historically low rates. However, that window is beginning to close, and we need to act sooner rather than later.

As D.C. dithers, the rest of the economy has already jumped at the chance to put this cheap credit to work. The corporate sector has taken advantage of low rates to refinance its debt. Today, publicly traded U.S. companies have the cleanest balance sheets seen in decades. It is in no small part a driver of the stock market rally that began in March 2009.

Households have also taken advantage of low rates. Families with a reasonable income and a half-decent credit rating should be refinancing their consumer debt, especially home mortgages. And the data show that many of them have been.

That leaves Uncle Sam, along with the states and municipalities, as the odd men out of the debt refinancing boom. Rather than waiting for bridges to collapse to do expensive emergency repairs, we should proactively be upgrading and improving the rest of our infrastructure. We should be refinancing whatever debt we can while rates are still low.

What can we do as a nation to take advantage of these interest rates before they return to normal? Choose your favorite part of America that can be upgraded:

● Our electrical grid consists mostly of wires strung between wooden poles, which may have been innovative in 1850 but is somewhat past its sell-by date today. After Hurricane Sandy, much of New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut lost electrical service for two weeks. The entire grid needs to be hardened, upgraded against cyberattack — and buried underground.

● We can make our road system “intelligent” by using sensors and software to move traffic more quickly and efficiently than the current “dumb” system does. The productivity boost and fuel savings make this a big return on investment.

● Bridges that are well past their life expectancy should not simply wait to fail. We should be actively replacing these. The alternative is waiting for random events — like the truck crash that caused the Washington state Skagit River bridge collapse — to cause a disaster.

● The United States’ cellular network is a decade behind Europe’s and Asia’s coverage and reliability. Mandate better minimum service requirements and make available cheap financing to wireless providers to do so. We can do the same with broadband as well.

● The interstate highway system has been one of the lasting legacies of the Eisenhower administration. It is time for a full upgrade of this economic multiplier.

The United States once enjoyed what venture capitalists like to call “first mover advantage.” We innovated in these areas and were often the first to deploy these infrastructures and technologies. By virtue of being first, our systems tend to be older and in greater need of repair than in most of the world. Not bringing them up to date leaves us at an economic disadvantage vs. the rest of the world.

We do not want to miss the historic opportunity to finance projects at unusually inexpensive rates. Indeed, dysfunction in D.C. has already impacted state and municipal financing vehicles like the Build America Bonds. Sequestration has eliminated most of their special tax credits, and their usage as a financing vehicle has slowed significantly. It is not surprising that the public works projects that these were funding have fallen off dramatically.

If we fail to take advantage of this once-in-a-century opportunity, future generations will look back at us with a mix of disgust and anger. They will wonder how we let such a golden opportunity slip by and will think of us as “the idiot generation.”

And you know what? They will be right.

~~~

Ritholtz is chief executive of FusionIQ, a quantitative research firm. He is the author of “Bailout Nation” and runs a finance blog, the Big Picture. Follow him on Twitter @Ritholtz.

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3313 days ago
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GogoGOPgridlock.
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