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back to article Enraged by lengthy Sky broadband outage? Blame BT Openreach cable thieves

Frustrated BSkyB broadband customers living in parts of London remain without access to the internet or phone lines, after the media giant's service went titsup on Tuesday. The Register has learned that BT's Openreach network infrastructure, which is accessed by BSkyB and other ISPs in Blighty, was targeted by copper thieves. …

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Its Full Of Stars .... said the crim as he cut the fiber cable

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Anonymous Coward

Pity

It wasn't full of High voltage electricity.

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Re: Pity

Or the lasers need to be *much* more powerful ... one or two blindings might put the feckers off damaging infrastructure.

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A simple suggestion

Why not rip out all that expensive and valuable copper cable and replace it all with fibre. That will stop the thieves, well except for the stupid ones who go a nick the metal in the cables alongside railway lines, but then we can always hope that in their greed they touch the one carrying a few thousand volts.

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Re: A simple suggestion

Ah, the smell of roast long pig.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A simple suggestion

"Why not rip out all that expensive and valuable copper cable and replace it all with fibre. "

Because doing that costs a fortune

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Re: A simple suggestion

And having your Copper ones nicked over and over and over again is not costing a fortune? Hmm.

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Re: A simple suggestion

Ragarath,

In comparison no. Damage costs bugger all. The manpower and road disruption required to replace all copper with fibre over the whole country would be horrific. Why do you think the water companies haven't replaced all those leaky mains yet? It's not just the man-hours, it's all the disruption to roads as well.

There are parts of London where so much has been built, bombed, demolished, rebuilt or just plain moved - that before you can think about replacing infrastructure, you have to find the bloody stuff. I did a job a few years ago, where they couldn't find a 2m diameter sewer. They knew it was around somewhere, but were unable to make a new connection to it, because it was hiding...

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FAIL

@Bluenose

sorry to downvote you, but criminals already start off being less bright than the average bear. There are many documented cases of fibre cables being stolen because the thickie crims think they're copper.

The best way to clamp down on metal theft is to ensure scrap merchants are required to take proper ID from anyone selling scrap metal - even someone bringing in an old saucepan.

Also, given they aren't likely to smelt the copper down (although I have heard they burn the insulation off) I wonder if it's possible to mechanically mark the cables (maybe an imperceptible notch every so often) to aid detection.

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Rob
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Re: @Bluenose

I think that is the requirement for Scrap Merchants now, I know they have to be able to produce an audit of all scrap they receive and who from.

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Joke

Re: A simple suggestion @I ain't Spartacus

Sewer: I can't take this shit any more! *hides*

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A simple suggestion

I'm told by someone quite high up in BT management (posting anonymously, because who really wants to admit knowing them!) that if the cable is more than a mile long, they actually make more money from the selling of the copper than it costs to replace the copper with fibre.

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Go

Re: A simple suggestion

#1: Replace copper wire with Fibre.

#2: Offset some of the cost by flogging copper at local Scrapyard.

PS: is it Fibre or Fiber?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A simple suggestion

The industrial estate we are on gets hit regularly. BT put in fibre and that made........

........ sod all difference, the pikeys still life the locked down lids, and haul the cable out. They use a transit and a chain.

We dropped a 20 foot iso container on one manhole which seems to have solved the problem, but we think the rozzers might frown on us doing that all down the street.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A simple suggestion

@Bluenose

sorry to downvote you, but criminals are clearly several steps ahead of you and your ridiculous suggestion.

If you're gonna comment, at least have some knowledge.

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Re: @Bluenose

"but criminals already start off being less bright than the average bear. "

No they don't.

Only the ones who get caught do.

Which are the ones you hear about, which causes perception bias.

There are just as many smart criminals as stupid ones. They're the ones earning more in a night than we do in a week and *never being successfully prosecuted*.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A simple suggestion

Just nitpicking, as I'm sure you're right about the cost of replacing all the copper, but...

To replace one line, you don't need to find it (although following it might work for that!) you just need to connect something else between the two ends. The something else might even follow a different route.

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Re: A simple suggestion

"...if the cable is more than a mile long, they actually make more money from the selling of the copper than it costs to replace the copper with fibre."
Is that so? And they tell me that to dig up the mile long cable from the exchange to my house, and put in a fibre router at each end will cost HOW MUCH?? Tell you what. For the 2nd-hand price of the copper wire, I'd gladly pay for fibre to my house.

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Re: @Bluenose

The requirement already exists for sellers of scrap metal to produce ID - along with the law restricting the methods of payment for scrap sold. The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 prohibits the buying scrap metal for cash etc - specifically

A scrap metal dealer must not pay for scrap metal except—

(a)by a cheque which under section 81A of the Bills of Exchange Act 1882 is not transferable, or

(b)by an electronic transfer of funds (authorised by credit or debit card or otherwise).

Incidentally this stupidly even applies to scrap cars now - which lets face it have an "identity" and shouldn't be included in these regulations. Typical of badly thought out regulations. The bad boys really wont find a way around this... will they?

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Re: A simple suggestion

The problem is that the GPO/Post Office Telephones/BT/Openreach have been putting copper in the ground for over 100 years. They can't simply decide one day "right, we'll move everyone over to FTTP" for the following reasons:

1: You'd have to do a national survey to work out where the hell all your current cables are going, who's hooked up to what and what future building works etc. are planned. That would take years.

2: You'd have to re-equip and retrain all your existing workforce so they can deal with fibre splicing and joining. This isn't cheap.

3: Apparently your not allowed to run new telecoms plant overhead on poles these days. Therefore in areas that are overhead fed (mainly rural areas) you'd have to trench out and duct in fibre to every single outlying village and farm and get permission from every landowner you cross.

4: Where there are ducts, they're not usually pristine new ducts, some have been there for over 70 years and are collapsed or blocked.

5: While selling off the copper would probably pay for it, you have to factor in the upfront cost of taking the copper out and putting the fibre in, not to mention the effect dumping that much copper on the market would have on the commodity price.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love fibre to the premises (aside from the need for a battery backup), but it can't be an overnight decision because the level work required is astronomical.

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Re: @Bluenose

They should just not accept random blobs of molten or even compacted copper in that particular respect, because where it comes from is less likely to be traceable.

Want to bring in copper for recycling? Please bring it in original form. At least then any original tracing features that could be applied in a number of ways would be in tact.

But, one day one of them will cut through a fibre cable that is just beyond an amplifier, look at it wondering where all of the copper is, and burn a few holes in his vision in the process. That will serve him right.

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Re: A simple suggestion

I believe Fiber is the American spelling.

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bex

Re: @Bluenose

you supposedly can only paid into a bank account for scrap in the UK these days

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BT copper replacement

Actually there's a rolling plan to replace all the copper underground for two reasons : fibre has more bandwidth and will hopefully at some point stop the cable being stolen and they've made several million selling the scrap cable over the last few years.

Talking to some openreach engineers, they said the best stuff was from the early days of the GPO as it was really thick but also wrapped in lead (to protect it)!

Oh and to someone else who said about the cost of training - they know how to strip and connect all types of cables, not much use being too specialised.

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Re: BT copper replacement

I agree that a rolling upgrade plan to fibre makes sense, but most commentards believe the only reason BT/OR don't tear out all copper nationally in six months is because BT hate them all, not because it's an effing big job.

Regarding training, you do raise a good point but I doubt that every Openreach engineer is trained in and carries kit for fibre install and joining. There's a big difference in kit level between copper joining and fibre joining as well.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Bluenose

A problem being seen now is that the application of stricter rules on scrap metal dealing in the UK is resulting in criminals loading up a lorry and heading for the channel tunnel. Copper theft is now being concentrated in the South-East to allow for easy access to the continent.

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Re: A simple suggestion

i ran into a similar problem in Boston. the street that needed to be excavated should have come with a warning "excavate here only with a teaspoon and whisk broom." when the contractor called DigSafe (the folks who kindly have the street marked with the locations of underground utilities) they essentially covered the whole street with orange spray paint. the excavation, which eventually zig-zagged all over the place, took months and it was only about 100 yards if measured in a straight line.

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Re: A simple suggestion

"Why not rip out all that expensive and valuable copper cable and replace it all with fibre."

That's in the process of being done. The problem is the average metal thief is illiterate and only knows a "cable is a cable" - they'll rip out everything in the ground and simply dump what's not got copper in it.

BT's alarm systems are mroe reactive and there's a policy of having police onsute at any detected cable break asap but that still leaves a window of opportunity for the gangs to operate in (It takes at least 20 minutes in most cases and the thieves can be gon ein less than 10)

So far ALL the important busts have been a result of chance - there's been a patrol car close to the break, or (more often) the police have stumbled across the theft in progress quite by chance and before an alarm had been raised.

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Re: @Bluenose

"The best way to clamp down on metal theft is to ensure scrap merchants are required to take proper ID from anyone selling scrap metal - even someone bringing in an old saucepan."

Even with all the rules about identity now in place, scrappies are allowed to pay out in cash to anyone "of no fixed abode". It doesn't take a genius to work out what happens next.

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Re: @Bluenose

"There are just as many smart criminals as stupid ones. "

Yes, most of them work in banks.

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Trollface

Re: A simple suggestion

Yes, thats the correct spelling since we don't use "fib re" (musta been some really dyslexic people back then)

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Alert

Don't suppose no one thought to put a label on the cable saying "does not contain copper" XD

Well assuming they bother to read it anyway

I'll grab my coat, its the one with cable in he pockets

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That Takes Brain Cells

Bother to read?

Reading takes usable brain cells and possibly education. Anyway was the damage purely malicious or a real attempt at a get rich quick scrap metal scheme to try to beat the scrap metal handling rules?

Rather than recovering copper cable just use it to augment the HV distribution system at night. anything above 33KV should fry, sorry do nicely.

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JDX
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Re: That Takes Brain Cells

Seems rather dumb to assume all criminals are dumb.

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They won't read it...

We've had fibre put in at work the other year, everything they put in the ground was covered with writing and symbols advertising it as being fibre every metre or so (although doesn't help that the external tubing they lay to blow the fibre down looks like a bit of beefy SWA mains cable).

Wouldn't be surprised if even if they could read they nicked it "just incase" BT were lying in some sort of attempt to put them off...

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Dumb by default

Non-dumb criminals don't rip up copper in the middle of the night.

They might take DELIVERY of copper, but they are probably hanging in a lobby somewhere, sipping martinis.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dumb by default

Sounds like "been there, done that". Got caught with cable in the booth of your stolen limo, or what happened?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: That Takes Brain Cells

Perhaps just those who damage fibre cables?

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Anonymous Coward

It happens.

Last week thieves stole the sign from my nearest bus stop, both ways.

Sometimes the buses still know where to stop from the yellow boxes on the road, but only until sunset. Because the thieves nicked the street lights too!

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Re: It happens.

Welcome to Zimbabwe.

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Re: It happens.

And nobody noticed??? Nice neighbourhood you live in!

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Anonymous Coward

Suggested reply.

You wanted our cable?

You're a total arse.

Our network's unstable,

But all you got is glass!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Suggested reply.

Eh?

Arse doesn't rhyme with glass.

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Re: Suggested reply.

Does if you're a softy southerner with a plum in your arse sorry mouth.

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Re: Suggested reply.

It does if you pronounce them both correctly.

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Re: rhyming issues.

does round these parts

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Re: Suggested reply.

It does if you speak the Queen's English and not some shitty Northern bollocks

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Re: Suggested reply.

Pronounce it like "The castle of ARRRGHSSS"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Suggested reply.

gl-ass

not gl-arse

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Facepalm

Re: Suggested reply.

Feel free to visit Castleford and tell the locals the correct way to pronounce the name of their town. I reckon you wouldn't get to to the third syllable...

Head slap, coz that's what you'll get.

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