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Utility Poles
October 31, 2010 - 7:45pm

We don't notice infrastructure until it fails. In my case, I never noticed utility poles until I moved to a house served by electricity and phone wires, but not by cable (or DSL until recently!). In the efforts to bring broadband to my street (we finally succeeded - I'm off satellite Internet for good), I started to notice and think about utility poles.

Utility poles make the Web possible. The future may be WiMax or 4G or something, but today we get the Web at home via wire. And for most of us, those wires mean utility poles. (What percentage of Internet connections are buried underground, I failed to get the answer from Google?).

According to NPR, there are about 160 million utility poles in the U.S. The best site to learn about which wires are which, and the functions of the different boxes on the utility poles, is at this site: I found out about this site from the "On the Grid" site - a companion to Scott Huler's amazing book.

The Utility Pole site is really the best one available, with great pictures and diagrams of power, cable, telephone, and fiber lines commonly found on utility poles. I now know which wire is which, and I'm trying to get my wife and kids as excited this knowledge as I am. There is actually a lack of information and videos on the Web about utility poles. I found "The Utility Pole Fan Page" - but it is sort of a disappointment.

Andy Rooney hates utility poles, but I'm a fan. Infrastructure of any sort gets me excited. While courting my future wife I took her to the Paris sewer museum, Musée des égouts de Paris, the most romantic place in France. On our honeymoon we spent time at the Baltimore Public Works Museum, an amazing place which I just found out closed down due to budget cuts. This April we are taking our family to Disney World, and I'm already booked for the 4.5 hour "Keys to the Kingdom" tour - which promises the "unforgettable highlight [of] a trip below Magic Kingdom theme park into the service tunnels known as the Utilidors.".
Is my obsession with infrastructure a common affliction for people in educational technology?

Is your dream also to tour the steam tunnels on your campus?

Do you agree with me that every college graduate should be able to identify the wires and boxes on a utility pole?

Should infrastructure literacy be required of every graduate?

What are your favorite infrastructure books and websites?


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