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Wes Kautzi knows things that he wishes he did not, things that could conceivably bring down the U.S. economy. The risk manager of Sprint Corp. has the difficult job of assessing the financial cost of a terrorist incident shattering the Overland Park, Kan.-based wireless provider’s infrastructure–or worse, a broadside against the nation’s telecommunications network. While Kautzi says Sprint probably could survive financially a direct attack on the company, he is not too sure how the rest of the economy could weather a large-scale suspension of communications. “If we can’t operate, then the banking industry can’t operate because banks depend on telecommunications,” Kautzi explains. “Transportation would come to a virtual halt because you can’t buy a gallon of gas unless you stick a credit card in the dispenser and that, too, runs on phone lines. Internet communications would be disrupted since we’re a major carrier of Internet traffic. The country’s power grid, in terms of communications on where power is needed and how it gets there, also is handled over phone lines. Without communications, our entire economy would be destabilized. Yet, I know places in our network that could shut us down for weeks. And if I know it, do terrorists know it?”

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