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Copper Cable Theft Knocks Out Broadband in Worcester Suburb

Saturday, November 16th, 2019 (7:28 am) - Score 1,783

Many homes and businesses in the St Johns suburb of Worcester have been left without access to both broadband and phone services for several days, which occurred after criminals ripped up two of Openreach’s (BT) core underground copper telecoms cables from the ground (aka – Metal Theft) on Tuesday.

Such criminals clearly have no regard whatsoever for the significant impact they have on local residents and businesses. The theft itself is understood to have affected about 2,000 lines in the area, although most have now been reconnected. Nevertheless it’s possible that a few properties may have to wait until Sunday before they’re fully back online.

Metal thefts like this usually occur through organised gangs and often target critical infrastructure in more rural areas, where police response times are slower. In this case they appear to have targeted a busier location, which might hopefully prove to be their undoing as it may make the perpetrators easier to identify and track.

Sadly thefts like this occur every year and recently there has been a spate of similar incidents across parts of Cambridgeshire (here).

A Spokesperson for Openreach said (Droitwich Advertiser):

“We are working as quickly as we can do to restore service following the damage to our network. It’s a complicated and time-consuming task, but our engineers are making good progress and some people are already re-connected. We’re hopeful that everyone will be back up and running by Sunday at the latest.

We have drafted in people from neighbouring areas as this is quite a big job, time-consuming, and made all of the more difficult due to the weather (which I understand is very wet in Worcester!).”

Repairing large sections of significantly damaged cable like this is no easy task and thus a lengthy period of downtime is often unavoidable. Openreach has a partnership with Crimestoppers, which means they tend to offer a reward of up to £1,000 for information on these sorts of thefts (if it leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible). If you have any information on this incident, please contact them on 0800 555 111 or use the online form – everyone stays 100% anonymous (information passed directly to the police will not qualify for a reward).

In the future such thefts may become less of a problem as the national network increasingly adopts fibre optic technology, which has no value to criminals and obviously can’t be sold to dodgy scrap metal dealers. However it’s worth noting that criminal gangs aren’t always clever enough to know whether or not the cable they’re damaging is made of copper or fibre before ripping it out of the ground.

Leave a Comment
10 Responses
  1. Avatar Optimist

    “In the future such thefts may become less of a problem as the national network increasingly adopts fibre optic technology”

    Putting back copper will only result in it being stolen again. This is what rural churches do after their roofs are stripped of lead – they put out an appeal for cash to replace the lead, after which the thieves promptly steal it again. This continues until they face reality by using a less valuable substitute.

    • Avatar The Facts

      Please describe what you would do in this situation.

    • Avatar Optimist

      Openreach needs to accelerate the swithover to fibre. Regarding lead on church roofs, I understand there are substitutes for lead but the churchwardens are ether unwilling or blocked from using them.

    • Avatar CarlT

      So we leave these people without phone or broadband service until they’ve all had FTTC or FTTP alongside a digital voice service installed?

      Obviously this also means building FTTC cabinets and providing modems, forced migrations of people to new service providers, etc, and a new modem or router for every property.

      In the case of FTTP it is even more fun as alongside the FTTP infrastructure a fibre drop has to be installed and an ONT in each and every one of the about 2000 properties, with those whose ISPs do not offer FTTP being forced to change which will I’m sure go down wonderfully with their current provider and Ofcom.

      Think a little more realism is needed alongside the optimism here.

    • Avatar Mike

      Alternative is put a claymore in the cabinet, triggered if forcibly opened.

    • Avatar Optimist

      “So we leave these people without phone or broadband service until they’ve all had FTTC or FTTP alongside a digital voice service installed?

      Obviously this also means building FTTC cabinets and providing modems, forced migrations of people to new service providers, etc, and a new modem or router for every property.”

      That process has already started. Other technolgies which should hasten the eclipse of copper are 5G and LEO satellites – radio waves are not easily stealable.

    • Avatar CarlT

      I fundamentally have no opposition whatsoever. The people impacted alongside the service providers and of course their regulator overseeing it all are likely to disagree.

      If there were a ‘clean’ way to replace the stolen copper segment with fibre I’d be right at the front calling for it. I loathe the replacement of metallic paths with metallic paths and want them gone as much as anyone but this is just where we are right now.

    • Avatar lolfibre

      BT can’t migrate cabinets robbed of copper to fibre, everyone would go out and rip their own out.

  2. Avatar Steve

    @The Facts

    SWA phone cable with a 415v ground? 😛

  3. Avatar Martin E

    The solution is simple and very effective: Non-surgically remove their hands and then hot brand the words thieving scum on their foreheads. No reoffending and everyone knows exactly what they are. If they are no longer able to wipe their arse then tough. The smell will give even more warning.

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