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Copper Cable Thieves Strike Openreach’s Network in New Forest UPDATE

Friday, May 3rd, 2024 (8:10 am) - Score 5,640

Homes and businesses in the New Forest (Hampshire, England) village of Everton were left cut-off from part of Openreach’s UK broadband and phone services this week, which occurred after criminals caused significant damage to the network while attempting to steal the operator’s copper telecoms cable.

The incident, which began on Monday, impacted 128 premises across the community and local reports (here) quote Hampshire Police as saying that 70 metres of copper cable was pulled up from a point on Lymington Road. Two men were spotted working in yellow jackets around a pavement near to that location a couple of days prior to the incident, possibly in preparation for the later theft.

NOTE: Such thefts normally occur late at night and often – but not always – in rural or suburban areas (slower police response) and around manhole covers, cables, poles and any other parts of their broadband network. It typically takes a small gang to conduct the crime.

Crimes like this have become common in recent years, driven in part by the high price of copper, although a series of UK-wide arrests toward the end of 2022 (example) – followed by some convictions – did put a limited dent in the activity. More recently, Openreach has seen a sharp 30% reduction in cable theft over the past year after introducing a new forensic liquid marker (SelectaDNA) to help track and protect their network (here).

However, SelectaDNA takes time to deploy and can’t be added to cables that are already in the ground, which leaves some scope for thieves to continue targeting the operator’s core copper cables. The perpetrators of such crimes never have any regard for the harm they cause to locals, some of which are dependent upon the related services.

An Openreach spokesperson said:

“We’re really disappointed that residents in the Everton area have borne the brunt of criminal behaviour and theft from our network. These attacks cause significant damage and unacceptable disruption to the lives of local people and put vulnerable people at risk.

Our cable was cut on Monday and the damage impacted phone and broadband services to around 128 local homes and businesses. Engineers are working to restore services as quickly and safely as possible.

We’re already using anti-theft technology to help track stolen cable and convict criminals and our Security team is working closely with Hampshire Constabulary.

We encourage anyone who is experiencing problems to contact their provider who will advise us. We urge people to call 101 to report any suspicious activity to the Police; if members of the public do believe a crime is in progress then they should dial 999.”

Feedback posted to the local Facebook community group suggests that at least some of the affected homes may have been reconnected by late afternoon on Monday. We have since asked Openreach to supply a more up-to-date statement and await their response.

The rollout of full fibre (FTTP) lines should, eventually, help to reduce such thefts as fibre has no value to thieves. But this won’t completely stop the problem from occurring because fibre and copper cables often share some of the same ducts, and thieves sometimes confuse the two. BT and Openreach will eventually remove their copper cables too, but that’s a much longer process.

Openreach also has a partnership with Crimestoppers, which sometimes offers rewards for information given anonymously to the charity about cable thefts, if it leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible – you can contact them 100% anonymously on 0800 555 111 or use their anonymous online form. You can also contact Openreach’s security team direct or report via the local police (101), or if you see a crime in progress, then call the police on 999.

UPDATE 8:59am

Openreach has informed us that the repairs are ongoing, and they’re still working on clearing the remaining faults.

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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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7 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Andrew says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – There should be enough amperage put down the line to unalive them. People doing work legitimately should be unaffected with ‘call before you dig’

    1. Avatar photo UKFailure says:

      Andrew, your comment made me laugh so hard, but so sad for those affected people.

    2. Avatar photo XGS says:

      It is definitely funny but even if it were allowed impossible.

      They’ve been reclaiming unused copper more and more recently and making it all unused ASAP seems the way to roll. Ofcom could do more here, too, including ignoring vested interests.

    3. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      I agree, or have something that shoots some sort of dye out that can’t be removed and stinks 🙂
      they won’t do it again.

      The problem is even if they caught they get a smack on the hand and that is it.

    4. Avatar photo 10BaseT says:

      What about manhole protective lid made of steel like in other countries?

    5. Avatar photo XGS says:

      The ones that are easily lifted with a readily available tool and are used for chambers in carriageways?

    6. Avatar photo 10BaseT says:

      No, the one that are integrated with manhole so the only option to get in is to either unlock it or rip the whole manhole.

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