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8000 Premises Lose Broadband After Maidstone Copper Cable Theft

Saturday, July 30th, 2022 (7:36 am) - Score 9,168
Stolen-Copper-Broadband-Cable-Openreach

The seemingly endless campaign of copper cable thefts by increasingly brazen criminals has continued. The latest incident is one of the biggest so far, knocking out broadband and phone services for around 8,000 homes and businesses on Openreach’s (BT) UK network across Maidstone, Sutton Valance and Staplehurs in Kent.

The theft appears to have occurred yesterday morning and the details are still thin, but it must have been fairly significant in order to disrupt connectivity to that many premises. The high price of copper tends to fuel such activity and, sadly, the perpetrators never have any regard for the harm they cause to local residents, many of which will be dependent upon the vital communication services being provided.

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

Crimes like this seem to have become increasingly common over the past two years, so much so that we no longer report on all the related incidents (we spot about one or more a week). Indeed, it’s not uncommon to see a string of attacks like this hit a similar area before it starts to subside as the gang(s) move on to target a different region – often as a result of increased public awareness, police activity and Openreach’s security enhancements (e.g. CCTV cameras).

The situation in Kent is currently no different, as there appears to have been a long string of such cable thefts hitting Openreach’s network in parts of Brenchley, Wateringbury, Loose, Bethersden, Deal, Gillingham and more. But most of these have been smaller incidents, while the latest one is much more serious.

A Spokesperson for Openreach said (Kent Online):

“We are really disappointed that people in and around Maidstone and other parts of the Kent are regularly bearing the brunt of criminal behaviour.

These attacks on our network have caused significant damage and unacceptable disruption to the lives of local people through the loss of phone and broadband services.

This particular cable theft has impacted around 8,000 homes and businesses in Maidstone, Sutton Valance and Staplehurst. Our security team is working closely with Kent Police and we’ve deployed additional security measures to protect our network from future attacks.

We’ll do our best to replace the cable, repair the damaged infrastructure and connect everyone back up again as quickly as possible.”

Increasingly, it seems like the existing security and legal measures (e.g. the 2013 Scrap Metal Dealers Act) are no longer effective at deterring such activity. Despite this, there’s been very little indication of any campaign from Openreach or others to encourage a Government review of the existing remedies.

The rollout of full fibre (FTTP) broadband services should, eventually, help to mitigate such thefts as fibre has no major value to thieves. However, this won’t completely stop the problem from occurring in the short to medium-term because fibre and copper cables often share some of the same ducts and copper cable thieves sometimes mistakenly pull fibre out of the ground too, thinking it’s copper.

On top of that, it will be a long time before Openreach can completely remove their legacy copper core cables, so the opportunity will remain for thieves to strike. Openreach has a partnership with Crimestoppers to offer rewards for information given anonymously to the charity about cable thefts, if it leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible. If you have any information on these incidents, please contact them 100% anonymously on 0800 555 111 or use their anonymous online form.

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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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31 Responses
  1. Meadmodj says:

    To achieve this takes a lot of organisation and resources to steal and dispose. If this was a bank robbery would it get more attention?. It appears that they are being treated as a victimless crime as OR are big enough to resolve them.

    1. Me says:

      And the cost of the repairs and replacements of the cables goes straight to the customers. The public always end up paying for it double one way or another.

    2. Mike says:

      In the UK everything but crime is policed.

    3. DrWho says:

      These guys work faster than the guys laying the cables

  2. Optimist says:

    This is hardly surprising as the proportion of crimes leading to prosecution is much lower than it used to be, so crime pays.

    But the police assiduously follow up complaints about “controversial” comments on social media, record these as “non-crime hate incidents” then waste time harassing those who have dared to express non-woke opinions.

    But thefts, burglaries, stabbing, gangs raping children – these come far down on their list of priorities.

    1. John says:

      Laurence Fox just posted a video on his twitter that he recorded of two vans of police arresting someone for daring to post 4 trans + person of color flags rotated in a certain way to better represent the actual ideology behind the flag on Facebook

      https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11063507/Police-force-savaged-crime-commissioner-arrest-army-veteran.html

      2 police vans to arrest for a Facebook post. Someone close to me had her parents burgled of most of their valuable family heirlooms and nothing was done (was it because they vote conservative in an overwhelming labour dominant area of Wales? was it because they are asian immigrants? ). Same police that barely did anything to stop communist activists from glueing themselves to roads and vandalizing property as those are on the side of the WEF, but cracked down against anti lockdown protestors as those go against the WEF

      The UK/Australia/Canadian/Chinese “police” is a political tool to crush political opposition, not to protect the law abiding citizen. Too bad self defense is pretty much banned in all of these countries and the state has a monopoly on violence

    2. Fastman says:

      political genius

      people have been stealing copper cables for ever nothing to do with the urrent challenges no that rubbish frankly

      more like people think there q quick buck to make !!!!

    3. Cassandra says:

      John, I’m a bit confused by your post. You said they were arrested for arranging four pride flags to better indicate the ideology behind them, but the article you linked says that the flags were arranged in the shape of a swastika. These days the most common association of a swastika is with the German Nazi party, who committed genocide against trans and queer people. That’s the absolute furthest thing from the ideology behind pride flags, which is about accepting such people and being happy about being one of them, not about killing them. Did you mean to link a different article?

      Suggesting that we should kill trans people seems like something that should warrant some sort of response. So does theft of valuable family heirlooms, but it may be harder to do something in that case because it’s probably unclear who the culprit was, whereas Facebook posts are usually easy to trace back to their poster. Unfortunately, our chronic underfunding of public services means that crimes that require significant investigation often go unsolved, whereas ones that require little investigation are more likely to be acted upon.

      I’ve also not heard of any communist activists gluing themselves to the roads in the UK. The last time I remember seeing people gluing themselves to the road, it was climate activists, not communist activists. But perhaps you’re talking about one of those other countries there, not the UK.

    4. Me says:

      Crime certainly pays in this country that’s a fact, we are soft on it. Many violent crimes even are receiving pathetically low prison terms according to media stories. So cable theft is easy money really. We had stories before of criminals dressing up as workman and literally stealing the cables from city centres right under everyone’s nose. It’s not really taken seriously at all it seems. The sooner fibre replaces it all the better.

    5. Joceyok says:

      These comments sections are becoming really nasty and twisted. Commenters supportive of violence and hate against people who just want to live their lives in peace. On a news article about copper theft. I just can’t imagine what the heck is going on in some peoples heads!

    6. Mike says:

      I think the swastika flag was a comical reference to the behaviour of the left in regards to their brownshirt style tactics as of late, they do not care about LGBT people beyond exploiting them for political gain.

    7. Aled says:

      Well, I suspect it’s more to do with the ease of policing. It’s very easy to detect and monitor Twitter, those involved are unlikely to complain. Far harder to spend two months.

    8. Sam P says:

      A woman in my local town just got 6 yeas in prison for murdering her partner. They had three kids together.

      The court lowered it to manslaughter because the woman said he was controlling her.
      Of course, the guy couldn’t defend himself because he’s dead.

      Let’s not even get started on the Pedos.

    9. angry man says:

      @John

      I have just got back from court in the case of the little 9 year old stabbed in Boston – i was one of the CCTV operators on shift and I witnessed it so I had to give Evidence to what I saw – that 13 seconds of video will haunt me forever.

      There were very very few Police there – I also saw that woman who got abducted and killed in Boston on the main road minutes before it happened.

      Only 1 officer was assigned to that – 3 officers arrested a homeless man for asking for money – and one sat night a drunk woman and a bouncer had a scuffle in Sleaford – 11 coppers over 4 cars turned up.

      As I also listen on the Radio I have had to conceal who i am – but let me tell you if it’s one group of people who actively hate the role the Police have to do thesedays- It’s the POLICE!

  3. Anthony says:

    I wish someone would come and steal my copper wire. I don’t want it anymore after upgrading too FTTP. Its sitting there on the wall worthless.

    1. GaryH says:

      They can come steal ours too, not that an 8 pair or whatever it is would entice copper thieves, 4G mobile and broadband here for less than Openreach and an ISP charged for a 1M adsl line hmm.

      Sadly there would be no upside, they would simply replace it with new copper.

    2. plunet says:

      Don’t get your hopes up for a trouble free FTTP service, they will nick the fibre cable as well.

      Unfortunately the people who usually cut cable either can’t read or don’t bother to look at what is written on the cable. It’s usually a case of cut the cable first, maybe if you’re lucky look at what’s in it, and if they have half a brain and they spot it’s fibre they might leave it there and move on – whilst it’s been cut with a bit of luck the resplicing can usually be handled with a single joint.

      If it’s copper go to another manhole further down the road and cut again and start pulling usually with a powerful winch. But as they winch it out, it’s highly likely they still snag and chafe or pull/distort the fibre which could be wrapped around the old copper cable and the fibre ends up being damaged in any case.

  4. Ell says:

    There needs to be tougher restrictions against scrapyards as its obviously too easy for them to process stolen copper cabling, heavier fines as well as prison time to those found to have handled the copper would be a start.

    Got copper to sell at scrapyard, the scrapyard should insist on evidence that it can be accounted using a audit trail and is legit.

    Fail any part of the checks and the process should be stopped as its not just the thieves at fault here but the scrapyards too.

    1. ElectricGuy says:

      It’ll be either loaded into a container and disposed of in another country with less restrictions, or be set alight somewhere to remove the insulation and evidence of where it came from. Not much legislation can do about either of those things unfortunately.

  5. DS says:

    I’ve got ultrafast fibre and live at least 5 miles away from the affected area, all my neighbours are affected too, Openreach are playing down how big the outage is clearly. And they’re not going to fix it until Tuesday as they’re on strike, it’s hard to have any sympathy for the lazy bar stewards.

    1. AC says:

      They aren’t on strike today or tomorrow and in any case Ultrafast fibre won’t be affected by stolen copper?

    2. Ribble says:

      Fibre often gets damaged during these network attacks, either they cut everything or the fibre gets damaged as the copper cable is pulled out

  6. Telecoms Engineers directory says:

    This also takes place on the railway network causing lots of disruption.

  7. An Engineer says:

    Ofcom really need to stop pandering to certain CPs and, where FTTP is available, not only permit Openreach to withdraw and recover the copper where feasible but require them to.

    These randoms open up pits to the sight of a few cables of fibre, very clearly marked that that’s what it is, this will calm down.

    I fully expect to see a spike in metal theft this year, sadly.

  8. Alan says:

    About 20 years ago when I worked for BT, we were jointing up a new cable that had been layed along a rural road. It was about 2pm
    Suddenly all of the floodlights failed as well as the traffic lights- total darkness
    Thinking the generator had run out of petrol which was highly unlikely, I walked up the road to where it was located. Not a sound of it running.
    Scoundrels had stopped stolen the generator, 5 litre petrol can and all the extension leads
    All this in sight of us working just up the road.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Total darkness at 2pm?

      Were you working in Winter north of the Arctic Circle?

  9. Ad47uk says:

    Should put something with the copper cable so if it is disturbed, some nice bright yellow dye flies out into the face of those that steal it. Not to harm them, but to show them up and make sure it will not come off in a hurry.
    Myself, I would put something down there to give them a nice electric shock as well.

    1. An Engineer says:

      Might be a small flaw in this plan given these cables can and do end up submerged. They’re sealed and pressurised against water ingress.

      Can’t really put a trigger mechanism on them either. Dye packs on bundles of cash or clothing are easy enough to arm. I’ve no idea how you’d trap several kilometres of cabling.

    2. FibreBubble says:

      There are impregnations and traps deployed as you suggest but I suspect the reason for such a big attack is staff on strike and nobody responding to the alarms the cuts would have raised.

  10. A_Builder says:

    The top two photos are copper cables.

    The bottom LH photo is lead for sure.

    The bottom RH photo looks like lead piping to me.

    I appreciate these are file photos……

    1. FibreBubble says:

      Bottom right is white polythene sheathing where the copper has been stripped on site and the poly left behind.

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