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UPDATE3 Big Broadband Outage Hits ISPs and Customers in South East England

Thursday, July 6th, 2017 (10:58 am) - Score 2,581
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Customers of several broadband ISPs (particularly those on Sky Broadband, BT and TalkTalk) in the South East of England appear to be suffering from a total loss of internet connectivity or unstable services, which is the result of 7 “separate” breaks in major core fibre optic cables.

The worst affected area appears to be Sussex, although this will also be having a knock-on impact for certain other parts of the south east corner. Apparently the problem began early yesterday afternoon after a cable break was located in East Sussex, although since then a further six have been identified.

The exact circumstances are not known, although such damage is often caused accidentally by third-party contractors (e.g. diggers slicing through multiple cable ducts) or criminal activity. However TalkTalk appears to pin the blame on a fence post (yep.. we always knew you couldn’t trust fence posts, no matter how inanimate they might seem!).

TalkTalk Update 6 July 08:50am:

Openreach engineers identifed cables that had been damaged by a fence post yesterday. Three cables have been replaced earlier this morning and work continues to connect them. We will continue to keep in contact with Openreach for further updates on their progress.

Sky Update 6 July 09:50am:

Repair work on the damaged fibre cables continues this morning. Further updates will be available soon. We apologise for the inconvenience.

Major breaks can take anything from a few hours to several days to repair, depending upon the severity of the damage and location.

UPDATE 12:37am

Sky has posted the following update, which confirms that the damage was caused by the installation of new fence posts. “Engineers continue working to reconnect services. Third party installation of fence posts had caused multiple fibre cable breaks. Further updates will be available soon,” said Sky. The centre of the problem is believed to be in Peacehaven. Incidentally Virgin Media is currently deploying their cable network in the same area.

UPDATE 1:59pm

The expectation is that the cables should be fixed by this evening, although sometimes the normal flow of internet traffic can take a little longer to level out and you might need to reboot your router. At present the problem is still on-going.

UPDATE 7th July 2017

It looks like the problem was eventually resolved at around 9pm last night, with Sky suggesting that around 32,000 of their customers were hit. We don’t have any figures for BT or TalkTalk etc.

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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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36 Responses
  1. Avatar DTMark

    Might this be why EE’s 4G network completely vanished here (Hampshire) for five minutes at about 10:10? It’s certainly not normal.

  2. Avatar captain.cretin

    The cables couldnt bear to take Trumps Twitter output any longer.

  3. Avatar wireless pacman

    Have seen those pesky fence posts damage fibre at one of our customer sites – customer’s own on site fibre, customer’s own staff installing fence post!

  4. Avatar 3G Infinity

    Fence post installers should be licensed and have passed both theoretical (don’t put a post on top of a cable) tests and practical (how to see if there is a cable in the ground before you install the post) exams, can only work in pairs and must submit a planning application before putting a post in. All posts need to be documented and maps made available online and there will be a limit as to how many posts can be in one place after which post sharing needs to happen.

  5. Avatar AndyH

    It’s in Peacehaven. Multiple fibres/copper cables have been damaged.

    • Avatar CarlT

      I presume as far as BT Wholesale go it’s only those impacted by the copper break that are having issues, as BT Wholesale seem to take far more care over having resiliency on their transport network. Sky and TalkTalk likely have 20-30 exchanges hanging off a single daisy chain in this area.

    • Avatar AndyH

      Yep, but the problem seems to be they’ve gone through multiple fibres/cables between the exchange and cabinets.

      I see 6 head ends with fibre breaks and some 1,000 customers impacted. First cable break was at 17:02 then 17:41 and then 17:47.

      Seems like splicers will be busy fixing what’s happened (no estimate fix time yet).

    • Avatar NGA for all

      AndyH, your use of head end in this context? Which bit of kit are you referring too?

    • Avatar AndyH

      The OLT/L2S in the exchange. As soon as this sees a loss of comms to the cabinet, the alarms go off.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      If it’s feeds to FTTC cabinets, that would make sense, as there isn’t any resilience at that level.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      AndyH Thanks, sorry obvious but six OLT/L2S? – No If it is not too sensitive? The headends are in the designated handover point. Is this Lewis, Brighton or Newhaven?

    • Avatar AndyH

      6 fibres from the exchange to cabinets, each one has a unique identifier. FTTC is P2P (single fibre fed from the exchange to cabinet).

      The damage will be more extensive as there will fibres not used etc.

    • Avatar AndyH

      Sorry the headends in this case (where ISPs connect to their networks) are at Seaford. It doesn’t show you where the damage occured though as it can be anywhere between there and the actual cabinet.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      AndyH, thanks – discrete ports on an L2S.

  6. Avatar Steve Jones

    I have some experience of Peacehaven. Nothing good ever came out of that place.

    Peacehave was originally named New Anzac-on-Sea in 1916, in somewhat dubious taste, in honour of the Australians and New Zealanders who lost their lives in Gallipoli. It was renamed as Peacehaven following a newspaper competition which turned out to be something of a scam by the speculative developer.

    nb. You have to wonder just how deep the ducting is (or the fence posts) for this too happen. I assume this is something rather more than a garden fence being installed.

    • Avatar CarlT

      The standards require telecomms ducting not be too deep. Burying them too far down is risky. Fence posts must be a fair way in though if the ducts are adhering to depth standards.

    • A typical concrete garden fence post can run a good 5-6 feet deep, so you never know.

    • Avatar CarlT

      More than deep enough to hit either the 350mm standard telecomms duct is buried at or the 250-260mm CATV duct is buried at.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      @Mark Jackson

      Seriously? 5-6 feet deep for a typical garden post? I have my doubts – 8 foot wooden posts only go in 2 feet or so (at least on any I’ve put in). The normal rule for fence posts is that about 25% is below ground, 75% above. This site states 2 foot 6 inches is the normal minimum standard for a concrete fence post that stands 6 foot above the ground. A

      https://www.avsfencing.co.uk/blog/tips-advice/how-to-install-concrete-fence-posts-fencing-gravel-boards/#post

      This site has even less – a 2 foot deep hole for a 9 foot concrete post (their conversion from metri isn’t too good – the 650mm deep they state is really about 2 feet 2 inches.

      http://www.pavingexpert.com/featur02.htm

      I would say 5-6 foot is at least double what I would expect to see for a normal garden fence. Garden boundary fences are usually limited to 2 metres height above ground unless you have planning permission.

      http://www.boundary-problems.co.uk/boundary-problems/fences.html

      Unless the ducting is unusually shallow, I doubt this was a garden fence which, in any event, would surely not be across the path of a trunk route. My suspicion is that this is more like an industrial or agricultural setting.

    • Hi Steve, ok I’ll grant you maybe 5-6 feet isn’t “typical”, just my experience :). We’ve had to do it due to the nature of the ground. Just try putting a big heavy concrete fence post in only 2 feet of soil and see how long it stays upright in the winter if the ground gets saturated with water from higher up and becomes a bog.

      Often you may need to pack the bottom in concrete too, which adds another bit of depth for stability and stops it sinking over time. You might also need to do this if your neighbour is 2 feet above or below your own land height and doesn’t have a retaining wall for the soil.. like ours.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      OK – I’ve come across the pole-in-a-bank issue and squidgy clay can be an issue. But 5-6 feet is certainly exceptional. In the case of Peacehaven, it’s on chalk so no such issues, but this was hoardings around a building site so that would explain it. Especially as (in my experience) builders seem to like to temporarily steal a bit of pavement in order to minimise the encroachment onto their building site.

  7. Avatar Manda

    The cables were damaged by a contractor digging holes for a hoarding to be erected around the former Police Station in Sutton Avenue, Peacehaven.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      OK – that makes a lot of sense as the 5-6 foot Mark is quoting is way more than I’ve ever seen used on a garden fence, and it would explain why this has apparently hit trunk ducting which you wouldn’t expect to see go through gardens.

      If (say) a post of a hoarding was driven 2 metres into the ground, you might expect about 5-6 metres above the ground.

      I assume it’s the contractor’s responsibility to check for underground services when they install such things, in which case I trust it’s a big company or has third party insurance.

      nb. the ugliness of a hoarding might be noticed in many towns, but not, I suspect, Peacehaven where it probably improves the place…

  8. Avatar Andrew

    I live in Telscombe Cliffs and I am sure its the Virgin Monkey’s that are digging up the roads.

    • Avatar CarlT

      The story, Sky and TalkTalk’s service status and the comment immediately above yours make clear it was people putting fence posts in, so unless you think they’re doing fence post installs as a sideline looks like you didn’t read the story or anything else after the headline 🙂

  9. Avatar Aled

    I think you are legally supposed to use a CAT scanner at minimum to check for cables if you are digging serious holes into the ground. Forget upsetting the locals facebook browsing – if you dig up the gas/electricity main then you’ll feel a serious thump/tingle from a) the explosion, and b) your boss

    • Avatar Peter Knapp

      Cat scanner can’t see fibre.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      I’m a bit surprised that telecoms fibre cable and/or the ducting in this sort of environment doesn’t have some sort of metalic tracer content to allow it to be detected. After all, gas mains are made of plastic these days and it would be dangerous not to be able to detect those.

    • Avatar MikeW

      You can get fibre cable with a metallic tracer. No idea whether BT uses it though.

    • Avatar AndyH

      Are the BT fibre cables to cabinets armoured?

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      @AndyH

      It will be fairly robust, probably to some ITU standard, but armoured cable isn’t used in ducting. The stuff has to be blown down micro-ducting. Armoured cable would normally only be used for above ground or direct burial.

      In any event, if these fencing contractors are using powered augers (which I think is virtually certain given this was hoarding being put up), then no armoured fibre cable will stand up to that. The best that you might say is that the armouring would make it easier to detect.

      What I believe contractors are meant to do is find out if there are services in the area and then to locate and find the lines or them before they start digging holes. In the case of mains electricity it’s absolutely essential as hitting one of those can be fatal to the operators. With other services (including gas) it’s generally not fatal, but can be expensive and disruptive. One exception to this is if a gas main is breached and the leaking gas collects in a nearby building. Then there’s the danger of an explosion.

  10. Avatar Joe

    I did wonder earlier on today when I saw 8 Bt vans in front of the old police station , and put 2 and 2 together when trying to find out why my internet has been slow today. I not all that bothered as they will fix it eventually, what does worry me is the fact that a contractor is going to build more flats in peacehaven!! One of the houses next to the police station has only just had a new wall built, and now the whole place is being devoloped !! They must of offered quite a lot for that house as it’s only just been renovated and the person who owned it must have spent a few quid on it ? I wonder who the developer is? Been living here for 10 years and the traffic is getting so bad, it won’t be long before there will be total gridlock!!

  11. Avatar TheFacts

    re gas on the application:

    Safe digging practices, in accordance with HSE publication HSG47 “Avoiding Danger from
    Underground Services” must be used to verify and establish the actual position of mains,
    pipes, services and other apparatus on site before any mechanical plant is used. It is your
    responsibility to ensure that this information is provided to all relevant people (direct labour or contractors) working for you on or near gas plant.

  12. Avatar TheFacts

    Streetveiew shows what looks like a cable chamber on the corner of the plot.

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