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back to article Cable thieves hang up on BT, cause MAJOR outage

BT is suffering a big outage in a number of areas throughout Blighty, after thieves severed the telecoms giant's fibre cable in an effort to nick copper wiring from the company on Monday. TalkTalk, which is a BT Openreach customer, said on its status page that its service was affected by a "major cable break". BT told The …

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Childcatcher

Damn thieves

I bet they don't steal cables that supply their own services. I hope you choke on the 10p you made.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Damn thieves

I kinda doubt they'll have taken 10p worth of copper if large portions of the network have fallen over. It's a massive market. The company I work for has multiple sites around the country, and in one year had to replaces £2million worth of copper cables, and some similar companies cannot afford the additional cost to the insurers to cover their cables. The problem should decline as companies move to installing fibre or aluminium alternatives - fibre isn't as easily reusable, and aluminium do4esn't have as high a ROI for this type of enterprise.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Damn thieves

The issue is that the thieves cut first and find out later. In some cases they go on a slash and burn when they find out they have wasted their time. Jointing in new cables is not a trivial task, it is likely that the whole length will need to be re-pulled in and jointed. In some cases it may be several lengths. If a joint box contains say ten cables it is likely that only one can be worked on at any one time - and that assumes you have spare lengths of exact match, expensive fibre cable sitting around.

Using railway lines can be a nightmare just getting the access rights can be very time consuming. It is not the easy fix that it was once thought to be. Sadly the low life thieves segment with which society must cope, do not appear to have the same access problems. Half an hour to get in and destroy days to get in and replace/repair.

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g e
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Re: Damn thieves

How about writing 'FIBRE OPTIC - NO COPPER' in very clear letters on the cabling.

Possibly in Romanian, also.

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Re: Damn thieves

They tried that, the thieves left a message saying they needed to check anyway.

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Re: Damn thieves

And putting some high voltage cables in the bundle with the rest, for extra Darwin value.

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Re: Damn thieves

> I hope you choke on the 10p you made.

The problem is the copper under the ground is worth more than the full market cap of BT.

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Flame

Re: Damn thieves

I would prefer if it was high (as in, a few hundred amps) current.

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Re: Damn thieves

You need the high voltage to puncture the (high resistance) outer skin layers. Once you're into the nice soggy stuff inside the skin then the resistance drops very rapidly and current flows without much problem.

This is the reason that people who get electrocuted by a few thousand volts and up tend to end up scorched and smoking, their internal body fluids have boiled.

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Re: Damn thieves

@AC I'll remember to add the <Sarcasm> tags next time

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Flame

Re: Damn thieves

This won't work the brainless twats have been known to cut(or try to cut )10000 volt cables with bolt cutters one fried thief.

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Re: Damn thieves

From forty years gone I recall the safety chart in my Physics class noting that only 0.1A across the body will kill you.

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Re: Damn thieves

Hence the old ditty....

Volts jolts but mills kills

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Re: Damn thieves

Volts thrill, amps kill.

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Boffin

Re: Damn thieves

@ S4qFBxkFFg

you need just 100mA to kill. And as I=V/R, you want V sufficiently high to be sure you get I large enough over the R that is the resistance of the average body wearing rubber wellies and gloves.

Car batteries and welding rigs are well capable of delivering several hundreds of amps. They're not even close to lethal unless you're puncturing your skin and getting those electrons right into your soggy innards. In which case even a 9V battery will do.

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Mushroom

This antisocial behaviour cannot be tolerated. Scrappies need to get with the plan and not pay up for scrap without a history. I'm not talking about Mrs Jones taking a fridge to the tip, this is for industrial waste which should have a license, supported by a chemical or molecular signature, all of which also mean more jobs for people who *want* to work.

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Over the last few years I've replaced all of the copper piping in my house with plastic and I've sold the old stuff for scrap. I was last there a few weeks ago. The scrappie now takes ID and will only pay out via a bank transfer. He said that that aspect's not too difficult for him, but he's lost a lot of trade as a lot of people who don't want a paper trail, including tradesmen who have "legitimately" thieved it from the jobs they're working on who don't want the tax man tracing their income. Because there are still plenty of scrappies who will still pay cash, no questions asked, those people just go there.

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You're assuming that legacy installations have chemical or molecular signatures that are recorded

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The crackdown in the UK has seen stolen metal heading for the continent instead - hence more thefts recently in the south east.

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@QuinnDexter

If legislation was such that an approved tester had to attend a decommission then there could be a legitimate record.

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Vic
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Scrappies need to get with the plan and not pay up for scrap without a history.

That'll be the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, then.

Vic.

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Scrappies need to get with the plan and not pay up for scrap without a history. I'm not talking about Mrs Jones taking a fridge to the tip, this is for industrial waste which should have a license, supported by a chemical or molecular signature, all of which also mean more jobs for people who *want* to work.

Dealers already do as much as is practical: by law all purchases are photographed and ID is taken. They're generally a lot happier if they see some evidence you're a tradesman too if the amount or nature of the scrap isn't in keeping with a consumer. On the other hand, it's not realistic to ask for too much in the way of provenance since by definition the material is scrap with only residual value and often accumulated frequently but in small quantities.

For example my Dad is retired now but he was an electrician working on generators - they did a lot of work with very heavy gauge cables. If you have a metre-long offcut of say 300A cable (still quite small by their standards) that could easily be worth a couple of pints as scrap. He'd accumulate such offcuts in the course of his work and perhaps once a year take them to the merchant for perhaps £80, £90 or £100. Do you really expect him to be able to say "Oh yes, that particular one foot of cable is from cutting a run to length for a new installation at Coventry General Hospital"?

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jai
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measures in place

to help it quickly report cable theft to police

is that so they can claim the £1000 reward themselves? :)

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M7S
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Dont repair it, replace with fibre as and when this happens

Gradually the entire country will get done. Given that the labour is being deployed anyway, the marginal cost is not so bad.

Mind you, I think there'd be a rise in vandalism between the houses of most Reg readers and the exchange. Funny that.....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dont repair it, replace with fibre as and when this happens

Problem is, they steal the fibre thinking it will be copper....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dont repair it, replace with fibre as and when this happens

"Dont repair it, replace with fibre as and when this happens"

It's not terribly easy to replace a stolen 1,000 pair length of cable with some fibre. It's very hard to joint the fibre onto the copper cable left at each end.

Joking aside, it would leave people out of service for weeks instead of a few days. Everyone affected who had broadband would need new kit, and people who just have a phone line couldn't be connected at all. There are burglar alarms that would refuse to work, private services using the copper wire that would no longer work (ATMs, traffic lights, chip and PIN machines etc...)

I'm not sure how well received the message 'good news - we replaced the nicked stuff with fibre, bad news, you need to spend £1000 on a new burglar alarm' would be.

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They should treat this as terrorism; okay, the objective isn't to intimidate the public, but the overall result in loss of services is similar, and has a big impact on people's ability to conduct business.

If terrorists started to attack the comminications infrastructure in this way I think we'd see a more pro-active response by gorvernment and the police.

Until there's a dis-incentive for this kind of crime, in the form of effective detection and heavy punishment, then it will not stop. The perps are too stupid to tell the diference between copper and fibre so will keep at it, even when or if the network is 100% fibre (unlikely if telecoms companies are wasting resources replacing stolen infrastructure).

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Stop

No, please don't. We have enough stuff being treated as terrorism already. Terrorism usually ends up with people dying not just inconvenienced.

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worse

> They should treat this as terrorism; okay, the objective isn't to intimidate the public, but the overall result in loss of services is similar, and has a big impact on people's ability to conduct business.

In a sense, copper theft knocking out teh fones and interwebz is worse than terrorism. A value-free fucktard sense that is. It might make sense to utilise anti-terrorism legislation to detain copper thieves though. That seems to work out well in general.

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Re: Terrorism

"They should treat this as terrorism."

No, not terrorism, just theft. But treating it as follows:-

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Judge - "What does your client plead, counsel?"

Barrister - "Guilty M'Lud. <Whispers to client> Don't worry, you're only looking at a small fine plus community service for theft of this value. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy."

Judge - "Prisoner, step forward for sentencing."

<Thief steps forward, smirk firmly in place.>

Judge - "Well, the sentencing guidelines say that as the value of metal stolen is less than £1000 and you have no previous convictions, the starting point for sentencing is a £200 fine and 100 hours community service."

<Thief's smirk spreads further across his face.>

Judge - However, as the expert witness conservatively estimated that your actions affected <looks down at notes> around half a million people for nearly a week, we bring in a multiplier for every thousand people that your crime affected."

Thief - "But...but...but..."

Judge - "How does 15 years suit you, you selfish little fuck? <Bangs gavel.> Take him down..."

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My point about terrorism is that destuction of infrastructure by thieves has similar consequences to actual attacks on infrastructure; direct loss of life is not neccessarily a terrorist objective (even the IRA experimented with infrastructure attacks and economic terrorism) and there can be serious secondary effects due to loss of communications e.g. if it's over a wide area then there will be people attempting to call for emergency services during the outage who won't be able to get through (although this is mitigated somewhat by the availability of alternate communications channels like mobile telephones).

The EU identifies communications in the critical infrastructure that could be targetted by terrorists:

http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/justice_freedom_security/fight_against_terrorism/l33259_en.htm

Many of the villages around where I live have had this happen on several occasions; the current laws on theft and criminal damage don't seem to be a deterrent.

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Thumb Up

Re: Terrorism

I would so like to see a judge call someone a 'selfish little fuck'. No, really. We need more down to earth pithy comments in our judicial system.

Oh, plus it's funny.

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Holmes

Re: Terrorism

"we bring in a multiplier for every thousand people that your crime affected."

Exactly. Penalise them for the consequential damages.

When they cut the cable they know for a certain fact that it will cause great inconvenience and expense to a large number of people, and endanger the lives of some.

They are deliberately causing that harm by a criminal action. I see no reason they cannot be penalised for that harm. But then that would be logical, and this is a matter of law :-(

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Headmaster

Re: Terrorism

Judge - "How does 15 years suit you, you selfish little fuck? <Bangs gavel.> Take him down..."

sounds like a great system, of course UK judges don't have gavels.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Terrorism

You will all know that our prisons are empty. Criminals are deterred from criminal activity precisely because punishments of the type you are proposing are so effective and therefore, despite this anomally, we can all look forward to un-interrupted broadband service in the future.

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Re: Terrorism

If the same principle was applied to south West trains and whoever does the maintenance on the M1

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Re: Terrorism

"UK judges don't have gavels."

Guilty as charged. I plead dramatic effect and artistic licence as mitigating circumstances...

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> My point about terrorism is that destuction of infrastructure by thieves has similar consequences to actual attacks on infrastructure;

My first reaction to this was "no, of course not, otherwise you could say all crime was terrorism of one sort or another".

However, on reflection, perhaps we are confusing things a little here. The key aspect to this is not terrorism per se, but the cumulative effect of the said act. Certainly, I would like to see stiffer sentencing based on the fallout of the crime, which in the case of pinching back bone cables of this sort (and rail signalling infrastructure, of course) would be obvious to the perpetrators.

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Sod terrorism, they should treat it as photography. That'll see the bastards suffering.

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Re: Terrorism

"of course UK judges don't have gavels."

Really? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVt1EY896cY

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No, blowhard, a thousand times no to your Terrorism idea.

There's too much shit categorised as terrorism already - going to protests, carrying bags, wearing coats in summer, being irish/asian depending on the decade. The police have more powers under the prevention of terrorism act, so suddenly everything is a possible terrorist act. I'd like to see LESS stuff categorised as terrorism. Shoot someone while shouting something political? It's murder. Don't let them dress it up in a cause.

Anyway, using your argument, as you're clearly damaging the economic output of the country why not just go the whole hog and call it treason?

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Since when did severing fibre, bring any scrap value from copper cables?

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@M7S

"Dont repair it, replace with fibre as and when this happens "

I did think that when OpenReach fixed our line just before Christmas (not theft, just storms). But of course compared with replacing a segment of copper with copper, it requires updating the hardware at both ends. You can't lay FTTP to replace someone's busted copper link if you haven't got an infinity cabinet at the end to plug it into. Did we want it fixed today, or in 18 months after they'd got planning permission, sited a new cabinet, found a power supply to run the active electronics, etc, etc.

@Big-C

"Since when did severing fibre, bring any scrap value from copper cables?"

Probably collateral damage. If the damage was along railway lines (a good place to run trunk fibre as they have big conduits already which makes installation cheap rather than having to bury it, and it tends to connect towns and cities in a fairly straight line), then the conduit is usually packed with a mix of railway signal gear, power lines and fibre alongside - some collateral damage is to be expected when they extract the copper in the fastest way possible. Slice the lot and pull on anything with metal in the middle.

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Probably because the morons who cut the cable can't tell the difference between Fibre Optic and Copper cable.

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It's just a shame more of them don't get HV included in the mix as well. Would help keep the numbers down.

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Stop

RE: Keeping the numbers down.

It's just a shame more of them don't get HV included in the mix as well. Would help keep the numbers down.

My sentiments exactly.

Imagine if the fiber (or is it fibre?) were 'shielded' by a metal wrap that was connected to something like 12kV? That would hurt as the moron cut through the outer jacket.

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Fibre or Copper?

Which is it that was cut/stolen?

El Reg state at the beginning of the article that it's Fibre, but the BT posting doesn't mention the type of cable.

If it's Fibre, and they've tried to take it to a local scrap merchant, perhaps he will report the idiots that tried to trade it in as copper?

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Re: Fibre or Copper?

The article said that the fibre was cut while thieves were looking for copper cable to nick.

Other commenters have mentioned that when they find there's no copper the thieves can go on a hacking spree.

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Anonymous Coward

The biggest hurdle

In dealing with this crime is to allow the police force to effectively deal with the particular groups who are at the forefront of this.

In Bedfordshire our oh so politically correct police commissioner and chief constable have deemed certain minority groups can only be arrested for "significant crime" which means things like oil theft and general metal theft are ignored even when you have caught them in the act.

One of these particular groups has a full setup with an industrial cable stripping machine and various pulley and winch equipped vehicles to drag the cable out of the ground but somehow the laws regarding "intent", "going equipped" and "conspiracy" are magically not applicable.

Once we deal with the issues of inequality in how the law is applied this problem could be resolved very quickly but that would require upsetting some Guardian readers and apparently thats a step too far.

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