The recent fiasco involving a San Francisco network admin has been making headlines for over a week now. Public opinion can be found both in favor of and against Terry Childs, who has been jailed since July 13th for (until recently) holding hostage administrative access to the city's WAN infrastructure. Many sympathize with his situation in dealing with incompetent management, while others assert that he should be prosecuted for treating a metropolitan network as his own. Of course, anyone with experience in the field will immediately realize that both parties are at fault.
In one corner, you have a clearly negligent network admin. Even if his motivations for denying all others control of the network were benevolent -- and this is debatable -- one has to wonder if he considered himself invulnerable to harm. In what position would the city be left if he had an unfortunate encounter with a speeding bus? With no suitable personnel to replace him, and in the apparent absence of any documentation, how did he suppose the network would fare?
In the other corner, the ineptitude of the city's IT management is difficult to ignore. How do they excuse having relied exclusively on a single individual for the operation and maintenance of critical infrastructure? Why weren't these issues addressed before escalating to such a degree? A number of people higher on the chain than Childs should also be looking for a new job.
This conflict isn't so much about demarcation of responsibility as it is about ego, but it does serve as reminder that as networkers, we must mentally decouple our expertise from the networks we maintain. Territorial behavior not only damages the health of a network and the organization which owns it, but can hinder an engineer's ability to adapt to new settings when the time comes.
UPDATE: Roughly two years after the fact, Childs was sentenced to four years in prison, with credit for time served.