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Yummy.. Rats Eat Through Openreach’s Telecoms Cable in Devon

Tuesday, October 19th, 2021 (5:46 pm) - Score 5,496

Never underestimate the power of vermin with a taste for the UK’s telecoms cables. Some 1,800 of Openreach’s (BT) broadband and phone customers in North Devon (England) were cut off from their ISPs this week after rodents managed to chomp their way through one of the operator’s key cables.

Over the years we’ve seen some unusual animal related events and damage occurring in the telecoms space, from swarms of Bees occupying street cabinets (here) to Badgers blocking access to cable ducts. But rats are also somewhat of a known hazard within the industry and should never be under-rat-ed (example), which is one reason why such cables are often armoured.

However, sometimes vermin will have their way no matter what you do. In this case Openreach’s phone and broadband network went down on Monday in and around the Bideford, Clovelly, Hartland and Horns Cross exchange areas. Upon investigating, the operator’s engineers discovered two nasty problems.

Firstly, a key cable had clearly been damaged (eaten) by rodents and, secondly, the underground cable ducts where they needed to work were full of silt and “filling with rain more quickly than we could drain them.” Not ideal, and hopefully they have some road-dent insurance (sorry for the terrible puns).


At the last update, which was posted late this afternoon, Openreach’s repair work was still ongoing.

Matthew Hemmings, MD for Openreach’s Fibre and Network Delivery, said:

“We can confirm that the damage was caused by rodents and that the scale of the damage, combined with discovering that the underground cable ducts were full of silt and filling with rain more quickly than we could drain them, have made repair work extremely challenging. We now have a team of engineers and specialist equipment working around the clock to get residents and businesses back online as quickly as possible.

We’d like to thank the communities affected for their patience and remind anyone experiencing any disruption with their phone or broadband service to report it to their service provider who will then inform us.”

The operator is currently aiming to have everybody back online by tomorrow.

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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.
Leave a Comment
10 Responses
  1. chris conder says:

    That’s the trouble with ducts, they need to be sealed against rats and mice… not often they chew through the actual fibre itself though as it breaks off in their gums. They usually grind their incisors down on the casing and move on when they get through to the fibre. Hope they all swell up and fester and their teeth drop out… serves em right.

  2. Optimist says:

    Could rat repellents be incorporated in the cables?

    1. Joe says:

      rat repellents never work that so i;m told but…

    2. NE555 says:

      Need to put Cat 6 in there 🙂

    3. Joe says:

      cats #1-5e being old a lazy 😉

  3. G says:

    Rats on a high fibre diet

    1. Paul says:

      Haha Excellent!

      Mark J needs to give you special credit for that remark!!! Simply Brilliant!

  4. A_Builder says:

    The amount of sludge in the bottom of that chamber is unbelievable.

    The dusts must have huge holes in them and be in very very silty waterlogged ground.

    It should be one of the advantages of OR’s mainly clay duct network that vermin access is hard. If some simple stainless wire wool was used at the duct entry points it would be vermin proof.


    I am surprised we have had no VM jokes on here from the Usual Suspects?

  5. Barrry Scott says:

    Chump? You chump! I think you mean chomp 😉

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      I think so too 🙂

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