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Absolutely. And while our power grid is better able to hand spotty outages, the public in the U.S. is woefully unprepared, according to this article by Glenn Reynolds, to make it through any more than a day or so without electricity.
And if if our power outages such as those caused by the “derecho” a few weeks back on the east coast, don’t last long, the financial losses from companies being out of business can reach the hundreds of millions.
If a contractor cuts a telecom line with a backhoe bucket, rest assured the telecom is going to sue him for all the lost business, phone traffic, emails, and online commerce. In some cases these fines and lawsuits can run into the millions of dollars. But when the telecoms and power companies insist on stringing their lines among the trees–who gets sued when those come down?
Our electrical grid is fragile. A handful of cites lose power every year. Substations are particulary valuable targets for terrorists since it can take up to two years to manufacturer the kinds of transformers they use. And if you want proof of what a long term lack of infrastruture hardening can do to a city, try New Orleans. Seven years after Hurricane Katrina, more than a quarter of the population has yet to return.
Putting power and telecom lines underground has been debated for years. It’s time to do it, now.