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4000m of Openreach’s Underground Copper Cable Stolen Near Lincoln

Wednesday, May 25th, 2022 (10:37 am) - Score 11,832

More than 4,000 metres worth of Openreach’s copper telecoms and broadband cable has been ripped out of the ground in the Nottinghamshire (England) village of Harby near Lincoln, which resulted in around 200 local homes and businesses being disconnected from the operator’s local network and ISPs.

The incident, which appears to have occurred during the early hours of Sunday (May 22nd), began after a manhole cover was lifted in order to gain access to the operator’s copper core cable. The cable was then forcefully dragged out of its ducting, which in the process is said to have destroyed nearby fibre optic cables.

NOTE: The picture above is a general illustration of what such cable, which often gets cut into pieces, looks like. It is big, heavy, stuff.

However, much like we’ve seen in Wrexham over the past few weeks and months (here), this kind of metal theft does not appear to be the first such incident to occur in the area. According to one local resident, two similar thefts are believed to have preceded the current one. Sadly, it’s not uncommon for criminal gangs, which have become increasingly brazen, to hit the same area or region several times in a row before moving on.

The high price of copper helps to fuel such activity and, sadly, the perpetrators never have any regard for the serious harm they cause to residents.

A Spokesperson for Openreach said (The Lincolnite):

“We’re really disappointed that villagers in Harby are having to bear the brunt of criminal behaviour and theft from our network. Engineers are already on site and have been working overnight to restore phone and broadband to those impacted as quickly as possible. We’ve also brought in extra resource from as far away as the West Midlands.

However, this is a huge job and despite our best efforts, repairs are very likely to run into next week due to the extent of the damage. We urge people to report any suspicious activity that they spot in and around our infrastructure to the police.”

Local Police are currently investigating, but have yet to make any arrests. Crimes like this appear to have become increasingly common over the past 2-3 years, which could indicate that existing security enhancements and legal measures (e.g. the 2013 Scrap Metal Dealers Act) are no longer effective at deterring such activity.

The rollout of full fibre (FTTP) broadband services should eventually help to reduce such thefts (fibre has no value to thieves), but it won’t completely stop the problem from occurring because fibre and copper cables often share some of the same ducts etc. Credits to Josh for spotting this incident.

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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.
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14 Responses
  1. Anthony Goodman says:

    Can these copper thieves not do a public service and remove it from the areas already upgraded to FTTP.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      ..damaging the fibre in the process.

    2. An Engineer says:

      As with my earlier comment it would be replaced with new copper, regardless of FTTP being present or not.

  2. yeehaa says:

    What callous, selfish individuals who cause misery to those who require telecoms services, especially vulnerable people.

    1. simon says:

      Agred but I think “serious harm” is a bit steep.

  3. El Guapo says:

    Why do they not just put fibre in ? Nobody steals fibre.

    1. An Engineer says:

      Can’t. Have to replace the copper if it’s stolen and leave it in place for now. Ask Ofcom why.

  4. ELM says:

    I’m confused as to why the Leicestershire village of Harby is simultaneously referred to as near Lincoln and in Nottinghamshire, and reported on by the Lincolnite.

    1. FooBar says:

      Because it’s not _that_ Harby.

  5. Richard says:

    I wonder where its headed for. My guess is that it’s going abroad, where the legislation can’t touch it and if so it would be a case of finding out how it’s getting out of the country.

    1. A_Builder says:

      The main legitimate scrap channels are pretty much closed to this kind of thing.

      So I am afraid that it will be fed into a drum somewhere and the insulation burned off in a messy and polluting way.

  6. Rich says:

    Blame ofcom and the government. When openreach are forced to open up the infrastructure to alternative networks and have gangs of contractors rodding and ropeing the ducts ,then this is when they see the copper cables and then pass on the info of the location to criminal gangs @ a price I would imagine! BT wanted to put full fibre in everywhere years ago but , were stopped by the government at that time as nynex/ntl (American firm) which is now virgin had come onto the stock market and were competitors.

  7. ElectricGuy says:

    Exactly the same thing is happening on the electricity networks again. High voltage overhead cables, running at 11000V, are being dragged down and stolen, causing all manner of damage in the process. These people don’t care who they affect in the process.

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