You may work for a major telecom, but obviously not THIS major telecom. This is CenturyLink, formerly Qwest, formerly US Worst: they have a REPUTATION for this sort of thing. Where I work and live, JUST 5 MILES FROM DOWNTOWN PHOENIX and their Arizona corporate headquarters, we can't get ADSL because the copper is too rotted in the ground, we're too far away, and they won't install DSLAMs: we had to get bonded T1's instead. No joke.
In this case, the fiber cut was right alongside Interstate 17, near Black Canyon City. This isn't the middle of nowhere, as you assert, but in a suburb at the edge of Phoenix metro (these days).
As for the "backup systems", yeah right: not only was internet out, but so was phone service to the outside world. Let me repeat that again: *NO* service to Phoenix or the outside world! This includes the Navajo Nation to the New Mexico and Utah border. Including the 4 counties involved (Apache, Coconino, Navajo, and Yavapai), that is over half a million people. Cell sites and phones except for a few Verizon ones (probably mountain-top and microwave back-hauled directly from Phoenix) were all down as well.
In fact, the fact that TFA is from San Francisco and not an Arizona paper proves this isn't just a