posted on Apr, 3 2007 @ 02:13 AM
There is a delicate balance to be struck between the conflicting rights of two parties. Yes, people have the right to be secure in the necessities of
life, but people are not entitled to other people's goods and services.
This concept is probably best developed in property law. Your landlord can't deprive you of a roof over your head on a moment's notice, but he is
not obligated to keep letting you deprive him of the ability to make money on his property when it becomes clear you aren't going to pay.
If you lose your house, there are safety nets out there- there are shelters, etc, but you will have to find a way back onto your feet, or you probably
will lose custody of your kids, and you do run an increased risk of dying if you fail to provide for yourself.
The way I see it, the same thing needs to apply to utilities: first, you get plenty of warning. It should take AT LEAST two months with absolutely NO
payment or a total of 4 months behind to disconnect- if you hit a rough spot and you can only make half of your payments, the fact that you are
demonstrating that they will get there money has to be worth something. Four months in and of itself should offer a lot of protection from cold or
heat in many places.
There also needs to be a safety net- in this case, it doesn't really make sense to relocate someone. It would cost more to move somebody and shelter
them than it would to just pay their utility bills (afterall, this problem assumes that they are somehow paying their rent) so the safety net has to
involve allowing for a certain amount of service to those who can't pay. I believe that meters should be designed with a special disconnect setting
that allows a very slow rate of usage to continue- enough to accomodate the running of a few small appliances- say 1 lamp, and 1 fan or space-heater-
enough to keep one room habitable. We don't have to let people have central air, fridges and microwaves on the company's or the governments dime,
but there's no reason not to give them enough power to keep their children from freezing to death and let the companies write it off of their
taxes... the fridge etc are infact luxuries- I've eaten without refrigeration or cooking plenty of times- it was a twice-daily event when I was
little: fruit, granola bars, tuna sandwhiches, etc... and frankly I would have been thrilled to death if my mom hadn't cooked dinner because fanning
smoke away from the smoke detector really interfered with my homework.
And for those of you who are technically inclined, yes I realize that it would require a design change to allow for such a setting and that it would
have to be phased in over time. It's not a quick fix, I know.