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UPD Botched BT Telegraph Pole Install Cuts Fibre Broadband for Lancashire

Saturday, November 24th, 2012 (2:08 am) - Score 1,915
geo networks uk

Several Lancashire based broadband ISPs, including LonsdaleNET, B4RN, TalkTalk and others, suffered a serious loss of internet connectivity that lasted for over 10 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday after BTOpenreach engineers accidentally cut through a vital GEO fibre optic cable.

The “Major Incident“, which began at just after 3pm on Tuesday (20th November 2012), was apparently caused after Openreach’s attempt to install a new Telegraph Poleon top of the network” near Burnley Road in Accrington ended up cutting right through the operators vital cable.

GEO’s Incident Report said:

The damage appears to be 12ft away from the pole position, leading us to the assumption that the pole was placed and probably realised damage had been caused and then relocated it a short distance away.

A new length of cable (approx. 300m) will be installed between the adjacent chambers.”

Local services have now been restored and GEO are understood to have raised a case with BT, which will require a joint site visit to “assess how this problem could have occurred and to make sure future instances cannot occur“.

UPDATE 7th December 2012

It took awhile but GEO finally gave us an official statement.

GEO Statement

On Tuesday 20th November Geo Networks (Geo) responded to multiple customer fault reports and network monitoring alarms, indicating a problem with a core 96 fibre cable route between our Manchester and Preston locations. Geo’s incident management process was instigated, triggering full mobilisation of resource to locate and restore services supported by a customer engagement plan managed from the Network Operation Centre.

The fault was narrowed to a remote location in the Huncoat area of Great Harwood and work progressed quickly to restore service.

During the identification and restoration process it was clear that the cause of the issue had been due to the installation of a telegraph pole by a third party adjacent to our network. It appears that on the first attempt at installation, our network had been damaged and the grounds reinstated, as the final installation was situated only inches away. Geo had not received any prior notice of the proposed works nor any correspondence from the third party informing of the damage to our infrastructure.

Geo prides itself on its service level performance excellence, owing to both the fundamental design and build of the Geo fibre network and the excellent operational relationships and processes established that underpin a successful service delivery model. All agreements and systems are built to manage end to end solutions seamlessly and to provide consistent SLAs across the entire network. When an incident such as this does occur, Geo’s comprehensive customer service offering allows our customers the transparency, responsiveness and performance that they expect and deserve.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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16 Responses
  1. Geo kept the networks informed all the way through the incident, and within minutes of the break we knew what was going on. This is a good example of a well organised rapid response team. Well done Geo.

  2. Avatar Martyn Dews

    Has there been any comment/apology from BT? The incident report from Geo suggests that BT damaged the cable, realised the error then moved the pole. Did the engineers stand there whistling hoping no one would notice or were Geo informed of the cable damage BEFORE Geo’s customers raised the alarm?

  3. First Geo knew was when they lost the “heartbeat” to their network (essentially they use a fibre in each cable for monitoring). I then called them within about 10 minutes and told them they had a fibre break. Other customers (B4RN, TalkTalk, etc) then called quickly after and Geo notified other customers. BT did not inform Geo and it wasn’t until they had done an OTDR trace that they knew where the problem was within about 300m and began walking up and down the route. They then noticed the new poles and a hole where they first tried to put it. Geo then spoke with BT and arranged an emergency meeting with them. I’m awaiting a report on this meeting.

  4. Avatar telecom engineer

    Can u find oug if this was bt staff or contractors?
    Also how do you test for fibre in the pavement? Does it have any metal etc in the tubing so a cat / genny can pick it up? Or is it just warning tape / duct. The mechanical screws they use for polling are huge, easy to hit something unmarked,, however saying that its an absolute disgrace they did not inform the network operator once damage was realised, ( staff generally get away with this provided they own up asap so this is why I wonder if contractor).

  5. I imagine it was BT contractors. You are supposed to hand dig when landing a pole like this for a bit to make sure there is nothing below. Unfortunately people often don”t boher. You can’t normally detect fibre as it and the duct is all plastic and glass. The GEO guys would have had to TDR to find the distance to the break from the nearest POP and then walk the route to the specified distance. Suffice to say, it would have been fixed quicker if BT had checked the details on the fibre and notified the GEO NOC of the location.

  6. I’m due a report from Geo once they complete their discussions with BT. It should say. I’ll post back once I know. Likely contractors, though – most civils are done by contractors. Tubing has a bit of metal in to find out where it is along with the usual tape above it.

    Geo are national infrastructure owners so BT should of contacted Geo to find out if they had plant in the area although afaik BT have Geo’s full map to check themselves. In which case, they should of been more careful. It does add to the need for a national map of underground cables, though.

    As Robin said, it would of made sense for BT to notify Geo’s NOC. It wasn’t as if they wouldn’t find out! This would of shaved 3-4 hours off the fix time as they wouldn’t of had to OTDR from the modules to find out the exact location and could of come right to site.

  7. Avatar ollie

    My bet that it was contractors as majority of civis/digging/ductlaying is done by CT or their subcontractors but the pole location prints for the proposed location may not have shown any services in that location but for some other reason the duct as put there at the time and prints not updated but tbh a cable locator would not have picked this up as its plastic/earthenware duct plastic tubing with glass in it and the only way to be sure was before you dig get a ppo from openreach to track and locate the cable run but again this comes down to cost

  8. Avatar Martyn Dews

    Thanks for the information Craig. Regardless of whether it was contractors or not, BT should have informed Geo straight away. Being realistic, mistakes happen and owning up straight away is usually the best course of action. The fact that It was Geo’s customer s that reported before BT is disappointing.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      I’m sure a customer would have noticed the problem before BT/contractors even dug the second hole?

      Surely a customer would always notice a problem like this first?

  9. Avatar Craig Brass

    @FibreFred: If the fibre users have good network monitoring like us then yes, they do. Instant SMS to engineers then a quick log on to see where the problem is located.

  10. Avatar Ignitionnet

    I believe Homer Simpson has the exact right saying for this.

  11. Avatar Ben

    Why doesnt GEO have redundant circuits? Network should be designed with the assumtion cables are going to fail…entirely GEOS fault for building a network with single points of failure.

  12. Avatar The Builder

    I believe Geo has their national networks in ring, so it wasn’t the case of Geo building single point of failure but how Customer has the circuit on that ring network.
    Seem this whole thing would have been lot less dramatic if BT’s contractor had informed Geo after realising they have “damaged” the fibre. BT doesn’t seem to have hired competent contractors on this job.

    I am sure BT and Geo will work together on this to work out what exactly happened.

  13. Avatar Neil McRae

    If I had a car for every time one telco has impacted another telco during network builds I could open a chain of national dealerships!

    Problem we have in the UK is that GIS data is incredibly inaccurate, in ten years of building around London for COLT some of the things we found that should have existed or should have been 5 meters to the left or right was incredible.

    Also when cable damage happens its not obvious who’s cable is impacted so contacting anyone is nigh on impossible. I was involved in a major incident in London where I supported a bunch of splicers to restore a huge break that happened. 90% of the time was identifying who was affected, again GIS data is not always clear, nor are the markings that are left.

    We see this also in people who think fibre cables are copper and try to steal them.

    I’ve worked at lots of different telcos and we’ve each dug each others fibre up several times.

    I am surprised that there was any customer impact though – surely there is redundancy in these networks?

    Regards,
    Neil.

  14. Avatar Neil McRae

    oh and whilst at COLT some of the best network builders were contractors, I have serious respect for the guys at Mcnicholas who did a huge amount of building back in the day.

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