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Cable Hungry Rats Knock Out Openreach Broadband in Tring UPDATE

Wednesday, Aug 2nd, 2023 (7:47 am) - Score 2,440
A view through a tunnel / pipe – isolated opening

Homes and businesses in the Hertfordshire (England) market town of Tring have faced several days of disruption to their broadband ISP connectivity, which occurred after rodents with a taste for optical fibre chewed through one of Openreach’s (BT) main high capacity fibre trunking cables in the area.

Over the years we’ve seen plenty of animal related damage occurring on UK broadband networks, from swarms of Bees occupying street cabinets (here) to Badgers blocking access to cable ducts. Similarly, rats are somewhat of a known hazard within the industry and should never be under-rat-ed (here, here and here), which is one reason why modern underground cables are often armoured.

Most of the time rats actually prefer to ignore the cables and simply use an operator’s cylindrical ducts as their own personal transit hub between points. But every once in a while, they seem to get bored with infesting local rubbish bins and instead prefer to go on a high fibre diet of a different kind. At least that is what appears to have occurred in Tring, which has resulted in some locals being left offline for three long days.

Openreach quickly responded to the outage by sending engineers to a location in Nuyard, between Tring and Northchurch, whereupon they discovered a group of nesting rats that had managed to chew their way through both the cable ducting and multiple fibre cables inside.

A Spokesperson for Openreach said:

“Our engineers worked through the night to repair the damage to our network caused by rodents in the Tring exchange area. Connectivity to the vast majority of homes and businesses affected was restored by 2:00am, with the last few remaining expected to be back online by late this afternoon. We’d like to thank anyone affected for their patience and remind anyone who continues to have problems with their broadband service after today to contact their provider.”

Repairing damage to underground optical fibre cables can be quite a slow and complex process, even at the best of times, although in this case it appears as if Openreach were further hampered because access to its underground chambers had been covered over within a private property. The operator expects to have the “majority” of customers back online at some point today.

UPDATE 9:31am

We’ve added a longer comment from Openreach above, and they’ve also supplied a picture of the offending rodent(s) from one of their duct inspections.


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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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18 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Jarvis says:

    Thanks for actually reporting this accurately unlike some other places, as not the entire town has been impacted

    1. Avatar photo Jarvis says:

      Looks to me from the picture they have provided that indeed it was a rodent but not a rat.

      That picture is of a Glis Glis.

  2. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

    So fibre is not the be all and end all we have been told it is and can be taken down with a little rodent. I know I should not laugh, but it is a little funny.

    I would have thought that some sort of rodent proof cover would be put over the fibre, or is that common sense?
    As for the bees, not a lot can be done to stop them,

    1. Avatar photo The witcher says:

      A rodent proof cover? For miles of cable in a tightly, congested duct space!
      Best to stop the blighters getting into the duct to begin with, but with every Tom, dick and Jones entering the network that’s nigh on impossible

    2. Avatar photo Matt says:

      …. What?

      Any cable underground can be taken out by a rodent. They eat through live power cables too, does that mean electricity isn’t “the be all and end all” …?

      Anything you put on the cabling or ducting will potentially leech into the groundwater. It’s also not like you could just spray the fibre with warfarin and hope it kills them before they get through the fibre, the shelf life on product would also be an issue.

    3. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      Never know a power cut due to rodents eating though electric cables, not saying it have not happened, but I have not known it.
      I have not had a power cut for years, well not one to do with an external fault, had a few flickers when it has been thundering.

    4. Avatar photo Matt says:

      Rats can take out power transformer units (e.g. like the mini substations for a chunk of housing, usually in a big green chassis). We had a pretty decent powercut when rats had chewed through the insulation on multiple cables. The smell in the area around the chassis post-rat electrocution was pretty considerable. I’d hate to think what sort of power that would be like on the bigger industrial transformers.

      Concrete and steel are the only things I know of that will stop rodents, and even then you’d have to completely seal off the cables to achieve that. (e.g. bury in concrete, or cap off the ducting with steel plates around the cabling) It’s the nature of the beast from having anything in ducting.

      Rodents will chew/gnaw at most things due to their teeth continually growing. Underground powerlines to transformers are normally buried straight in the ground, which is why it is less common. What happens if it isn’t (like some of my area) or they get in via other means (e.g. gaps/damage to the cabinet) then it’s possible. It’s much less prevalent where people live where the power line comes in via telegraph pole, obviously.

      As you “haven’t known it” – google “rodent power outage” – you’ll find rats, mice and squirrels cause way more damage than you think.

    5. Avatar photo FibreFred says:

      Rats can and do eat through concrete. A bit of cable is no problem, protected or not.

  3. Avatar photo Martin - Aquiss says:

    Mark, I appreciate the tongue in cheek creative writing to this article. Just a shame someone had to rat them out.

    1. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      Obviously the rats have decided to have a high fibre diet….

      On a serious note though I have noticed a lot of Openreach’s underground provisioning to houses around my area seems to have been dug straight into the ground without any kind of armouring or ducting. Makes you wonder how long they are going to last.

  4. Avatar photo SillyOR says:

    Should be metal DUCTING instead so rat can’t chew it!

    1. Avatar photo Matt says:

      Doesn’t matter when they get in via another route. e.g. open/broken cabinets or buildings. They’re ducts, once they’re in it doesn’t matter what it’s made out of.

      Whilst working, I’ve seen just at the buildings I’ve worked in:

      1) at the building side through the covering on the entry point into the building – likely came in from the building itself.

      2) Through a concrete lined ground chamber.

    2. Avatar photo XGS Is On says:

      If OR are silly for not using metal ducts please would you point me to the telecomms companies that use metal ducts routinely?

    3. Avatar photo Alex says:

      Yeah nice one. Not only would metal ducts not stop this happening, they’d also hugely increase the cost of network build and, as a result, the cost of your broadband service. That’s before you even get to the fact that metal conducts electricity so you’d be adding a big safety hazard. Try and accept that the people who do this for a living have some actual experience and expertise.

    4. Avatar photo The witcher says:

      Hey Phil, you and Adrian should get together and do some brainstorming. Your both full of great ideas!!

  5. Avatar photo tonyp says:

    Living just about 150 metres away from Nuyard, (and I was amazed by the number of Openreach vans in attendance), I had no idea that Internet connectivity was affected (on FTTP). I thought it was to do with the rebuild of the pub opposite! I have had no loss of service although I havn’t checked the copper fed landline. Rats do love plastic wire as I have had mains cables knawed through – owning cats solved that problem!

    1. Avatar photo tonyp says:

      As @Jarvis said, Glis-Glis are common in the area having escaped from one of the Rothschilds menageries in Victorian times. Protected species I think even if they get caught by felines! Lovely bushy tails. But we do have rats too.

  6. Avatar photo Jocko says:

    These rats …are they contributing to global boiling ?
    Can anyone come up with a good RAT narrative to get these critters to cool down a bit ?

Comments are closed

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