back to article Cu in Hell: Thousands internetless after copper thieves pinch 500m of cable in Cambridgeshire

Thieves have stolen 500 metres of Openreach's copper cable in Cambridgeshire, leaving thousands of people without broadband or a working telephone. This is the second time the area has been targeted in a fortnight by what appears to be an organised criminal gang. According to Cambridge News, cables were vandalised towards the …

  1. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
    Headmaster

    A simple (but costly) answer

    Install FTTP for all, and make it CLEAR in the press that it's not copper anymore.

    Bonus. By removing the copper themselves, Openreach can use the moneys from weighing it all in to offset the cost.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: A simple (but costly) answer

      Ah, great minds think alike.

    2. james_smith

      Re: A simple (but costly) answer

      An elderly Georgian woman was digging for copper cables, but managed to put her spade through the optical fibre that was Armenia's connection to the outside world:

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/apr/06/georgian-woman-cuts-web-access

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: A simple (but costly) answer

        I think perhaps these sorts of cables should be armoured, and not so easily cut with a spade

        1. Jon 37

          Re: A simple (but costly) answer

          That makes them much more expensive. They'd have to pay for expensive steel armour (OK, perhaps not expensive in short lengths, but we're talking ridiculously long total lengths here) and the extra weight would also increase the cost of transporting and installing the cable - you need bigger, more powerful equipment for a big roll of thick heavy cable, you can't fit as many in a van or lorry, and installation would take longer.

          It's significantly cheaper to just fix the occasional break when it happens.

          Besides, normal cable armour may protect against an accidental spade but isn't going to do much against the real accident risk - a JCB (or other digger). And someone who's deliberately trying to steal the cable will get bolt cutters if necessary to cut it.

          If you're willing to pay extra for reliability, the right solution is to install two or more cables with diverse paths, so a break only takes out one of them. (Clearly Armenia wasn't prepared to pay for that).

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: A simple (but costly) answer

            Kevlar. But steel does have the advantage that you can detect the cable's presence using a simple survey device.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A simple (but costly) answer

            "If you're willing to pay extra for reliability, the right solution is to install two or more cables with diverse paths"

            Many years ago a digger managed to take out both diversity cables in a field. A link to Ireland was also lost when a ship dragging its anchor for some distance managed to break two diversity cables.

    3. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: A simple (but costly) answer

      The maths doesn't add up to me - either the value of the copper is ridiculously high, or the cost of extracting it is so high, or something else?

      If 1km is worth 20k, then 121m km is worth 2,420,000,000,000 - yes, thats 2.42 trillion pounds. Is my post Friday pub maths so far off, or could that copper pay to fibre up the whole of western europe many times over? Maybe not all the copper is as thick as the stuff that was stolen...

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: A simple (but costly) answer

        Not sure about the maths (too late on a Friday for me to even attempt to validate it) but it's worth noting that the price of copper is mostly due to its scarcity. If Openreach started a programme of ripping it all out and selling it the value would drop somewhat. Still - given that the copper has been laid over the last century or so it's not so shocking to think that it might be worth rather a lot of money.

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: A simple (but costly) answer

          given that the copper has been laid over the last century or so it's not so shocking to think that it might be worth rather a lot of money.

          I have seen one estimate that the total value of Openreach/BT copper in the ground is more than the market capitalisation of the company itself. (Obligatory warning: Shares and metal prices may go down as well as up.)

          1. Dazed and Confused

            Re: A simple (but costly) answer

            I think El'Reg had a story about this a few years back.

            1. Anonymous Coward
        2. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: A simple (but costly) answer

          Copper is not going to go down much in price in a hurry. There are millions and millions of alternators and transformers and generators waiting to be fitted to renewable energy machines as the price drops.

          I was looking into making some grid connected inverters - in mass production the silicon would be around £5 and the transformer, which in many countries you need to connect to the grid, around £50. In fact the bus bars to make it easily extendible were more than the silicon that would be stuck on them too!

      2. really_adf

        Re: A simple (but costly) answer

        If 1km is worth 20k

        At a guess: it's not 500m of cable = £10k, but a 500m stretch of (say) 10x 100-cable bundles = 500km of cable = £10k.

      3. Quarak

        Re: A simple (but costly) answer

        The cost quoted is probably the replacement cost. The cables costs a lotore than the copper wire in it and it has to installed, usually by third party contractors at least in my area.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: A simple (but costly) answer

          Again this it the beauty of fibre - it only needs a thin coating for the purposes of identification and you can put 20 or so in the space taken by the copper itself before you start talking about the insulation.

        2. oldfartuk

          Re: A simple (but costly) answer

          I suspect the number quoted is the scrap price of the stripped copper, wheras the replacement cable plus labour to fit it will cost a lot more.

      4. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: A simple (but costly) answer

        The article says it was underground cable, so probably a good chunk of the value was in the armour

    4. JimmyPage Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: A simple (but costly) answer

      The problems is

      1) that pitch has been queered by companies parking copper cables as fibre to do security on the cheap - so thieves are going to rip them up anyway, just to make sure.

      2) it presupposes a level of intelligence in thieves that all of human history doesn't really support.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: A simple (but costly) answer

        But... the replacement fibre will also be cheaper.

        And you could do something like, I don't know, literally put up a sign to say "This site is copper-free". Yeah, it's very "There are no tools in this van" but someone might read it.

        If this stuff is that sought after, it'll be cheaper to replace with fibre and keep doing that than it would be to replace with copper and keep doing that (and thereby encouraging the thieves to come again).

        1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

          Re: A simple (but costly) answer

          A sign. There was one on the ATM inside a bank's staff canteen, saying "No cash inside". For its only purpose was for staff to top up their cash cards used for paying lunch.

          And one morning the ATM was gone. Ripped out and opened - it was later retrieved in a forest. No cash lost but more than £100k of damage. The CSO mused that maybe the thieves didn't understand the language of the sign.

        2. Graham 25

          Re: A simple (but costly) answer

          If it was cheaper, you think Openreach wouldnt do it ?

          Fibre itself may be cheaper but its also m ore difficult to install and I would guess that a lot of the cable you think should be replaced is very old, direct buried copper cable - which would need to be replaced by a whole new lot of ductwork before you even think about putting fibre in.

          Occams Razor - the reason they aren't putting in fibre, is that its not actually cheaper.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A simple (but costly) answer

            "If it was cheaper, you think Openreach wouldnt do it ?

            ...

            the reason they aren't putting in fibre, is that its not actually cheaper."

            You're assuming a level of competence/businss logic which clearly isn't matched by the reality of the BT plc T/A Openreach and BT plc T/A BT Broadband (etc) business models. Just ask BDUK and many others who have tried to Think Different, and found it mostly didn't work.

            Break-fix is a source of revenue and of profit for the BT group, which is important to BT HQ. Poor quality service doesn't matter tp BT HQ, given that BT plc T/A Openreach still have an effective monopoly across most of the country and hence, unfortunately, at the moment There Is No Alternative.

            Fibre in the last mile as well as in the backbone makes for a more readily diagnosable network, a more maintainable network, and (eventually) a better quality of service. None of those fibre benefits are of direct nterest to BT plc.

            1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

              Re: Possible reason BT use copper

              Because if they installed fibre they would not get a massive government hand-out every year to replace copper with fibre.

              Just checked conductivity, density and price: Aluminium is nearly 7x cheaper than copper and Iron is over 11 times cheaper for the same resistance.

              1. John Robson Silver badge

                Re: Possible reason BT use copper

                Aluminium might be conductive, but I recall that it’s rubbish for signalling purposes...

                Now if only I could remember why...

                1. theblackhand Silver badge

                  Re: Possible reason BT use copper

                  I thought the issue with Al was that it performed poorly at higher frequencies (ie. DSL) but haven’t been able to find anything to support this.

                  To get equivalent performance to Cu, Al cables need to be a larger guage that would affect capacity and handling for installing large bundles, but I wouldn’t think it was unmanageable as its lighter than Cu.

                  Al is more sensitive to correct installation (brittle connections if not done properly, corrosion) and Al can’t be jointed easily.

                  In practice, this has meant that Al lines support much shorter distances for DSL services than Cu lines - the maximum line length for Al is around 400m vs 1km+ for Cu at similar performance levels. If the Al cable is water damaged, DSL will not be possible at all, but voice will be ok.

                  1. John Robson Silver badge

                    Re: Possible reason BT use copper

                    That matches my recollection, but why?

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: Possible reason BT use copper

                      The key reasons I am aware of are:

                      - different conductivity, so different thickness of wire required Al, meaning it is not as flexible

                      - Al is more brittle than Cu, so is mixed with other metals to improve strength but at the result of

                      - as Al is more brittle, joints and crimps are more prone to damage

                      - as Al oxidises, exposed metal (joins/crimps/etc) result in a further reduction in conductivity

                      These effects are most pronounced at higher frequencies (i.e. xDSL).

                      That is not to say a well designed/installed Al circuit cannot perform as well as a well designed/installed Cu circuit over time.

                      The reality is that most cabling is not well installed and even if it is, over time ground movement, third party damage etc result in Al deteriorating far faster than Cu.

                      In terms of fibre, Cu/Al/fibre installed into ducts probably (my guess..) have similar characteristics over time as the duct takes a lot of the stress rather than the cable. The reality is significant parts of the last mile are not run through duct work which is why duct work plus fibre is so much more expensive than replacing existing copper.

                  2. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Possible reason BT use copper

                    "I thought the issue with Al was that it performed poorly at higher frequencies (ie. DSL) but haven’t been able to find anything to support this."

                    I'm not definitive either, but try this for starters.

                    What do you know about "skin effect" (as applied to AC propagation along conductors - in particular at frequencies significantly above coice frequencies)?

                    Skin effect doesn't have much impact at DC or voice frequencies.

                    At radio frequencies, (e.g. LW and MW and above), skin effect becomes tremendously important, which is why "Litz wire" has historically been used in radio receiver coils etc.

                    An aluminium surface exposed to the atmosphere will oxidise almost immediately, and whilst the resulting oxidised layer provides some protection against further oxidation, it also impedes the propagation of AC signals (which tend to flow close to the surface of the conductor, because of the "skin effect").

                    This doesn't happen to the same extent with copper as it does with aluminium.

                    There are other issues too, many already mentioned directly or indirectly, such as the degradtion in signal to noise caused by AC signal reflections associated with a transition from aluminium to copper. Again, these are much more of a problem with xDSL signals than they are with pure voice (or DC) signals.

                    It's actually a miracle xDSL works at all, and even more of a miracle that BT plc T/A Openreach can almost keep it working acceptably for much of the time.

                2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

                  Re: Possible reason BT use copper

                  And iron is not ductile enough.

                  We had the whole of the 19th century working these sorts of things out. Copper was settled on after loads of testing of loads of options.

                  1. John Robson Silver badge

                    Re: Possible reason BT use copper

                    But the economics change over time - different metals change prices and different techniques are developed... then there is fibre...

        3. Chronos Silver badge

          Re: A simple (but costly) answer

          "There are no tools in this van"

          ...he goes indoors at night :)

    5. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: A simple (but costly) answer

      When I was at BT 30 years ago I was under the impression that one of the reasons fibre was being looked at was not just the bandwidth - its was the maintenance. At Martlesham Heath as it was then we were pulling 10Km of fibre for a cost of less than £10, which was pretty close to the annual maintenance cost of the copper (and aluminium was even more expensive).

      Given the scrap value of the copper it almost makes you wonder if you could just sell the old network for more than the cost of a new one.

      Ignoring the cost of the MBAs and their influence of course.

    6. boltar Silver badge

      Re: A simple (but costly) answer

      POTS landlines tend not to work with fibre to put it mildly so theyd be paying for millions of adaptors in homes which would probably wipe out any sales from the copper plus it also dumps one of the advantages of POTS - it works during power cuts.

      1. Adam JC

        Re: The Need For Speed

        Ah, that's where you're wrong my friend.

        BT FTTP deployments use an ONT that has one (Sometimes a pair) of POTS telephone sockets on the bottom of them for voice. They also couple them with a tiny battery pack to keep the ONT going for, well, I'm not sure how long actually.

        1. boltar Silver badge

          Re: The Need For Speed

          A tiny battery pack , well thats comforting. Lets hope the fibre switch in the cabinet also has its own battery too eh?

          1. Adam JC

            Re: The Need For Speed

            Of course it does, as do cell towers. Crikey, we roll our own FTTP stuff on a smaller scale and we try and budget for at least an two hours of run-time in order to allow us to scramble a generator to site if needs be.

      2. Nifty

        Re: A simple (but costly) answer

        Landline communication is overdue for replacement by apps and devices that just connect to your routers WiFi.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: A simple (but costly) answer

          And how does the wifi router connect to the internet, pixies?

          1. Suricou Raven

            Re: A simple (but costly) answer

            It just goes through the cloud, of course.

    7. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: A simple (but costly) answer

      Making it clear only works if people bother to check.

      Lumps of the rail signalling systems have been going from copper to fibre, and sections still get cut and taken because people still think it's copper.. :(

      1. swm Bronze badge

        Re: A simple (but costly) answer

        The railroads in the US would have a problem of having their unused overhead wires stolen so the railroads would put several thousand volts on them to deter thieves.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A simple (but costly) answer

        On the motorways, the "travelling folk" steal the copper power cables feeding signs and other infrastructure. They lift a pit lid, pour in a pint of petrol and throw in a lighted match. They wait for the bang as the insulation melts, then the cable is dead because the supply fuses have blown.... Then they remove many miles of cable, take it somewhere quiet and burn off the insulation. Scrap dealers claim that they don't buy copper, but the reality is that they do!

  2. big_D Silver badge
    Boffin

    Simples...

    BT should pull up all the copper themselves, sell it off and use the proceeds to lay fibre...

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Simples...

      Using the figures in this article I calculate their inventory as £242 million

      (bites outstretched little finger in dastardly manner)

      1. David Webb

        Re: Simples...

        500m is £10,000 so 1m is worth £20. BT has 121,000,000 meters, 121,000,000 * 20 = 2,420,000,000, so you seem to have misplaced a zero, and someone above seems to have found 3 zeroes. Or my maths is wrong.

        1. David Webb

          Re: Simples...

          Replying to myself, I need more friends. My maths is wrong, watching House M.D. (the episode with the Dominatrix woman) I realised my basic error, BT doesn't have 121,000,000 meters, they have 121,000,000 kilometres. Redoing my maths and yes, the poster far above is correct, it is 2.4 trillion.

          1. Dal90

            Re: Simples...

            Fires up the Google machine..."The UK has a road network totalling about 262,300 miles (422,100 km) of paved roads"

            Where has BT installed 121 million kilometers of cable?

            Cables are made up of multiple wires. As I recall the "standard" American telephone cable running down the road was 640 pairs, or 1200 individual wires. Smaller of course for the isolated farm house and running down alleys where they didn't anticipate future growth. And I think folks can figure out from there the discrepancy in the figures.

            1. james_smith

              Re: Simples...

              "Where has BT installed 121 million kilometers of cable?"

              The cables are bundles, so a single run may contain multiple cables. Hence the lack of correlation between miles of road and miles of cabling.

          2. katrinab Silver badge

            Re: Simples...

            Look at my street for example. There is a cabinet at the end of it on the main road. About 120 houses on the street with room to expand further, we’ve just finished phase 3 of the development, and it is pretty obvious from looking where phase 4 will go. Street length is currently about 500 meters. I don’t think there is just a single strand of copper going down it.

            Then on the main road with all the street cabinets on it serving all the residential streets, plus there will be the connections to the neighbouring towns and villages further along that road.

    2. agurney

      Re: Simples...

      BT should pull up all the copper themselves, sell it off and use the proceeds to lay fibre...

      In that order? Should be an interesting challenge.

      1. AlbertH
        Coat

        Re: Simples...

        BT should pull up all the copper themselves, sell it off and use the proceeds to lay fibre...

        In that order? Should be an interesting challenge.

        That's why they call the prices for minerals and metals "futures"!

        I'll get my coat.....

  3. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    We also have issues with pesky ne'er-do-wells stealing anything that's a cable for its copper value here in sunny south africa.

  4. Crisp Silver badge

    Don't they forensically tag the copper?

    I seem to remember seeing signs to that effect at a train station once.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Don't they forensically tag the copper?

      Not much cop when it's boiling around in a big vat of the stuff to be remoulded into something else.

    2. macjules Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Don't they forensically tag the copper?

      But why oh why would BT OpenRetch NEED copper cabling to connect people to the outside world? Surely, unless I am much mistaken, everyone (97% of UK) now has at least 24.5mbps fibre broadband? Even the great bamboozler in chief himself said so recently.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Don't they forensically tag the copper?

        I have “fibre” broadband that runs at about 50mbps, but there’s about 400 meters of copper to the cabinet at the other end of the steeet.

        1. the Jim bloke Silver badge
          Pirate

          Re: Don't they forensically tag the copper?

          but there’s about 400 meters of copper to the cabinet at the other end of the steeet.

          Whereabouts do you live ?

          We'll have someone around to collect that any evening now

  5. 9Rune5
    Pint

    Offensive terms

    There is a huge black market for copper cable

    Do you not mean a "block market" (ref: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/09/03/chromium_microsoft_offensive/)?

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Offensive terms

      Only after it has been melted down.

  6. Roger Greenwood

    Cost of new high grade copper (not the whole cable) is around £7/kg. On the black market (e.g. dodgy scrap dealer) that goes down to around £1 or £2/kg but still seems to be worth stealing despite the obvious risks of electrocution and not insignificant effort both nicking it and stripping it. Almost seems easier to work for a living.

    We've seen a few remote sites where the LV copper busbars have been ripped out (i.e. no PVC to remove). Disruption is then immense. One of our customers commented:- "I wish I could get our guys to work like that - middle of the night, confined space, tight timescale..." :-)

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Facepalm

      we had the copper theives

      round our way not so long ago...

      Nice fat copper power line designed to feed the factories rather large power presses, so they decided one night to cut it, rip it out and steal it.

      Which brings me onto why they are theives as the not to bright idiots never checked which substation was feeding the power... they it shut off at the 2nd attempt ... and also never noticed the CCTV that they'd parked their car next too......

      And the car was taxed and registered to their home address...

      Even the local plod managed to nick them the next day... with 60 foot of power cable in their garage..

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Yes, I'm a little perplexed.

      There is a lot of casing with Cat 3/5/6 cable, I wonder just how much copper was in 500m of BT cable...

      Whatever, the people who removed the cable have some really good way of stripping the casings.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Nice pic of the cut cable. A lot more PVC than copper but I guess still a fair bit in 500m.

        Pretty amazing that every pair can handle a few mbit/s while rejecting all the noise from the other pairs. And pretty amazing that such ancient technology is still in use at that sort of scale.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Nice pic of the cut cable

          And some nice pictures of the casings from the first theft a few days previously; clearly had the right tools.

          I wonder whether the second theft was of different cables or the newly installed replacement cable...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Not seeing any copper in that picture, are you sure that's not a fibre multicore?

          CSA of copper cores would be at least 0.5 - 1.0 mm2 and at that resolution I would expect it to be distinguishable from the coloured sheathing. Fibre could have a smaller CSA, is translucent and would not be so distinguishable.

          1. Martin-73 Silver badge

            Copper multipair for underground use is usually 0.4mm diameter. (so a tiny csa). The current required for a modern phone is only 20mA and they're a lot more tolerant of higher loop impedance than their rotary dial forebears.

            I have a section of 1200pair cable (legitimately obtained by the expedient of asking the engineers nicely) that they were using for a fault repair here in Southampton. The overall diameter is approximately 70mm.

            As it was exchange side cable, not distribution side, it's dry core, intended to be pressurized with dry air from the exchange. D-side cable tends to be thicker, heavier gauge wires, and jelly filled.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              'D-side cable tends to be thicker, heavier gauge wires, and jelly filled.'

              So the cut wires at the theft site would be the heavier gauge wires if Openreach were following their own standards.

              Additionally, you are quoting relatively modern specifications, the older cabling would be heavier again. Openreach are only going to install that spec in new installations and repairs. The older spec still works so isn't removed until necessary.

              1. Martin-73 Silver badge

                Relatively modern inasmuch as within 30 years, I'll grant. That cable LOOKED relatively modern from the sheath offcuts. And not sure what you're talking about with the cable at the theft site being heavier? it looked to me like e-side cable.

        3. whitepines Silver badge
          Gimp

          Looks an awful lot like a spinal cord in some ways. Probably not much difference in form and function beyond one being smaller (wires size of axons)/and biologically made vs. manufactured.

      2. Mephistro Silver badge

        "the people who removed the cable have some really good way of stripping the casings."

        They just put everything in a bonfire, so the plastics get burned away. The positive part? Having the crooks breathing that stuff will probably shorten their lives significantly. ;^)

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          This is almost certainly true of the inner conductors. They're usually PE insulated rather than PVC (it's a better insulator and I believe the dielectric constant is lower so it provides a lower capacitance). Sadly this means the fumes that they're inhaling are, like Earth, mostly harmless.

          The reason for dumping the outer covering is (a) the sheathing is screened with ALU, making it non-burnaway and (b), a bundle of small wires is much more bendable into the back of the untaxed transit.

    3. Fonant

      Legitimate scrap copper £3/kg currently

      Took our old copper water cylinder to the metal merchant. Price was £3/kg or £3,000/tonne. Cylinder weighed 12kg so valued at £36.

      Had to give name, address, photographic ID and utility bill to prove who I was, and payment is only by traceable method (cheque or bank transfer).

      1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

        Re: Legitimate scrap copper £3/kg currently

        Tracing is mostly not the problem.. yeah, in time they get caught, but it seems to be worth it for them.

        Same as nicking bikes, motorbikes, cars, etc, weak laws and poor enforcement.

    4. Flywheel Silver badge

      When I lived an a less-salubrious part of London, down a terraced side road, some bad lads from next door blagged a long length of insulated copper cable, and rather than spend the night stripping it by hand just laid it in the gutter, poured petrol on it and set fire it. Luckily no parked cars were damaged. The smell was horrendous but it was quite a sight for a couple of hours, and I'm sure it paid handsomely.

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        And at no point did you try to put it out or call the police.

        Witness 'aiding and abetting'

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More control and severe enforcement of the scrap dealers is the only way to stop this. A lot of other crimes would also reduce - lead roofs for a start.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      More control and severe enforcement of the scrap dealers is the only way to stop this.

      Er, have you tried to cash in £1 worth of scrap iron ?

      Anyway, I'll wager a lot gets exported anyway.

      1. Nifty

        Re: More control and severe enforcement of the scrap dealers is the only way to stop this.

        I recall taking dads old car battery to the scrapyard on a cart and getting several shillings for it. Well worth the trouble.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Scrap Dealers

      IF that was to happen then the copper would be like high value cars, loaded into containers and whisked abroad before anyone could stop them.

      Oh wait, perhaps there is an upside to a no deal BREXIT after all... (/s)

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Scrap Dealers

        > loaded into containers

        What? Probably put in the back of a transit van that is on route to a new owner in a former eastern european country.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: high value cars, loaded into containers and whisked abroad

        What do you think happens to a lot of the high value cars that get nicked ?

        Abroad for spares before you can blink.

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      >More control and severe enforcement of the scrap dealers is the only way to stop this.

      Probably not...

      Just completed the upgrade of clients premises - complete strip out of legacy power and data cabling, so lots of miscellaneous lengths and off cuts of nondescript cable. It was dropped into a crate which was dropped off at the scrap merchant. Client had no idea how much cable was removed, so difficult to track back to determine whether the crate had been added to or not.

  8. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    It's only profitable...

    It's only profitable because the scrapyards and 2nd / 3rd hand metal dealers aren't properly monitored and/or regulated.

  9. Emperor Zarg
    Joke

    Just maybe...

    Not-spot communities taking matters into their own hands?

  10. JeevesMkII
    Holmes

    Well, I wasn't affected...

    But if anyone caused my broadband to go down for a week, I'd support the death penalty for the thieving bastards.

    1. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: Well, I wasn't affected...

      Death penalty's too good for Virgin.

      (A week? Luxury! Be glad if they fix it the same year you try to report it).

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. Well, I wasn't affected

    Death by electric chair. And make sure its 'Ol Sparky, exported from the US to the UK in exchange for a really REALLY nice trade deal.

    That said it would likely need a voltage converter and be up to code, because 110-230 is quite hard.

    Sentence administered after a fair trial by a jury of their peers, if they have any.

    This should especially be used against the subset of copper thieves who steal lead from roofs and copper grounding from lightning rods.

    Or is this a little bit harsh? Maybe hook up 'Ol Sparky to a counter so technically the button pusher(s) just connect the circuit not administer the fatal jolts, has to wait for a convenient cosmic ray to activate both sensors.

    1. present_arms

      Re: Re. Well, I wasn't affected

      Thing is Old Sparky wouldn't need to be converted from 120 to 240, it's probably already 3 phase 400V and being as all it needs to do is dump current and the cables on that chair could probably survive a lightening strike, no conversion is necessary :)

      1. Fatman Silver badge

        Re: Re. Well, I wasn't affected

        ElReg already answered that question:

        https://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/10/20/the_odd_body_electrocution/

        Old Sparky is more likely to be running around 2300 volts.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Re. Well, I wasn't affected

      Sorry all executions are off until further notice - someone stole the supply cables...

    3. Shooter
      Boffin

      Everything you always wanted to know...

      ...about the electric chair.

      https://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/10/20/the_odd_body_electrocution/

      Thanks, El Reg!

      1. Fatman Silver badge

        Re: Everything you always wanted to know...

        DAMN!!!!!!!!

        You beat me to it!

  12. Jou (Mxyzptlk)

    Maybe we need to dig out the oldest punishment system

    like, you know, during the dark age. Where thieves got their handy cut off... Liars their tongue...

    That would work as deterrent instead of "just a bit prison"...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Maybe we need to dig out the oldest punishment system

      > like, you know, during the dark age. Where thieves got their handy cut off... Liars their tongue...

      And the InterWeb thing is used to watch porn, so guess what's getting the chop for stealing the wire

      > That would work as deterrent instead of "just a bit prison"...

      Yepp

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too bad rail companies can't stop using copper cables...

    ...because trains are powered by electrons.

    ...what they CAN do, is to print the rail company's name on every METER of cable, and track down the guys that recieve the marked copper. A certain Brazilian rail company did that and managed to apprehend substantial amounts of stolen copper from their lines...

    ...Curiously, that same rail company, with ample access to copper suppliers, chose FIBER as means of communication, and managed to using the exclusion zone around every rail line to lay down all the fiber they could possibly use in private lines. Picture that, a city-wide network, that is entirely owned by your own company.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder

    "BT is working with the charity Crimestoppers, the National Crime Agency, British Transport Police and Network Rail to tackle the problem. It is also dangling a cash reward of up to £1,000 for any information that leads to a prosecution."

    You could go to any "Traveller" park and you'll find the theives. Yes, I am anon cause I'm racist cock towards them but the amount of issues I've had with them over the years I'm past caring. And one of the things they love is copper. Like magpies.

    1. oldfartuk

      Re: I wonder

      no i concur. Science is based on observation, and very little observation of Travellar camps, scrap yards and the Magistrates court is necessary to support your theory.

    2. boltar Silver badge

      Re: I wonder

      Youre not racist. The Roma are a race, however the sort of travellers who rock up in beaten up transits and knackered caravans and increase the local crime rate by 50% while theyre in the area are just white trash who've banded together to commit crimes and avoid contributing anything to society. Theyre antisocial criminal scum, nothing more, and Ive also had first hand experience of them unfortunately.

  15. John_Smith

    Cottenham, hmmm

    Not exactly rocket science where the police can find the thieves then, but do they want the aggravation of assembling a 500 strong riot squad to do so.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Liberated cables.

    Any traveller-types pitched up in the vicinity? Sheer coincidence, of course, that railway signalling cables went "missing" near Faversham, Kent, when they were around THAT area. Just sayin'

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Liberated cables.

      Cottenham does indeed have an official encampment very close to that drove, though that also makes it a fairly obvious place to dump evidence if you want someone else to take the blame.

  17. DougS Silver badge

    Why is this such a problem in the UK?

    I never hear about it in the US, at least not someone pulling up 500m of underground cable. The main thing here are thieves going into long vacant houses (in towns where auto plants have closed, or areas overbuilt during the housing boom that didn't recover) and stripping out copper wiring (and plumbing in older houses that predate PEX) Almost never hear about thieves in the US targeting telco wiring.

    Is it because scrap dealers are more unscrupulous there? Surely this would be easy to crack down on if the proper laws exist, just get a few undercover cops to go in and try to sell stripped telco wiring and arrest them when they don't ask for any proof that they are connected with the utility or a company demoing a large building etc. The huge bundles telcos use for copper wiring are pretty obvious, and not something you'd get from remodeling your house.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why is this such a problem in the UK?

      Many people believe the problem to be primarily caused by a vocal minority group in the UK that likes to avoid taxes, park their caravans on other people's land and playgrounds, leave their shit everywhere then fuck off to another location after being a monumental pain in the arse to the local residents, all the time they are doing this they claim to be being persecuted because people call them names and generally don't like they way the shit on everyone else's rights.

      Oh, our Police are also afraid to tackle them directly, unless it's a massive political hot potato.

      I suspect that if they tried this in the US they'd have met with a bit more push-back from the locals - them being armed and all that.

      1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

        Re: Why is this such a problem in the UK?

        "Many people believe the problem to be primarily caused by a vocal minority group in the UK that likes to avoid taxes, park their caravans on other people's land and playgrounds, leave their shit everywhere then fuck off to another location after being a monumental pain in the arse to the local residents, all the time they are doing this they claim to be being persecuted because people call them names and generally don't like they way the shit on everyone else's rights."

        Are you sure you aren't posting this from across the street from a Seattle homeless camp?

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Re: Why is this such a problem in the UK?

          Do the homeless people in Seattle all have trucks/vans/caravans/mobile homes full of dodgy gold and cash then? If not, then no :)

    2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Why is this such a problem in the UK?

      There are lots of checks on scrap dealers because this (and other related crimes, such as stealing lead from church roofs) have long been a problem. Doesn't seem to have stopped it, though. Probably still fairly easy to export even if the local scrappies follow the rules.

    3. Erik4872

      Re: Why is this such a problem in the UK?

      From what I've read and heard from UK friends, most of the recent uptick in this kind of thievery is because of austerity and replacing most benefits with Universal Credit. Apparently there used to be a pretty decent support system in place for the unlucky/unemployed/underemployed, and it got cut back severely in the last few years. Parts of the north of England and Wales are almost completely deindustrialized...think US rust belt.

      When you can't get work and have no financial support, you go for other options. I'd have to be pretty desperate to steal cable, especially live electrical cable, but you do what's needed I guess.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why is this such a problem in the UK?

      There was a house not far from here that had been for sale and empty for a while. Eventually some of the thieving scum class broke in and took an axe to the copper water piping, which flooded the place. Not sure if their hacking loosed an electric line or if the water got to an unprotected socket, but a houseful of inches deep water makes a lovely conductor. Some times, there is justice.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why is this such a problem in the UK?

        >Some times, there is justice.

        My brother (a few decades back now) had to do a couple of postmortems - the youths had been stealing radios out of cars on the top deck of a car transporter train and had got too close to the overhead line...

    5. swm Bronze badge

      Re: Why is this such a problem in the UK?

      In the US in our town thieves stole all of the gas pipes from a vacant house without turning off the gas.

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. Winkypop Silver badge
    Joke

    Cu later

    Replace with a plutonium/copper mix.

    No?

  20. Nifty

    Could this news item be the result of local residents digging up their own copper in the hope that BT will finally capitulate and put fibre to the home in?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nah

    Dig up their own copper? Surely not.

    Note, some thieves have been known to steal Li-ion batteries and then strip them down for the copper.

    Alas most of the time they then dump the remains in recycling bins or private landfill, thus contaminating them.

    A few years back there was a scandal involving a crematorium and theft of medical and dental implants post mortem rather than them being recycled.

    Supposedly the criminals only got caught when they tried to sell some "lightly used" implants to a vet in very suspicious packaging also stolen from a local hospital bin complete with tags and manufacturers markings then resealed with a stolen pouch sealer.

    Strangely enough there has been a rash of road lamp thefts recently. Surely Zn can't be worth that much?!

    AC because I too went through a pile of "dead" pouch cells but it was more trouble than I thought. Yes they have recycling value but its hardly worth it these days unless you lucked out and found a pile of the industrial ones with extra thick copper foil, not least they can be sold on to folks building E-bike packs.

  22. not.known@this.address Bronze badge
    Pirate

    Make some of the cables 'live'...

    Make sure the Engineers/Technicians know which ones, then when some light-fingered little scrote tries to steal it they electrocute themselves.

    And when some bleeding-heart liberal do-gooder complains that this isn't a nice thing to do, just point out that stealing from other people isn't nice, stopping people using phones, the internet etc isn't nice, and if they weren't being evil little shits they wouldn't have got hurt. Society shouldn't have to keep paying just because some people think the rest of the world owes them whatever they want.

  23. Nash

    Cash reward of up to £1000....

    ...or 20 Meters of copper.

  24. John Savard Silver badge

    It Shouldn't Be Possible

    Of course there should be severe penalties for such crimes. But how could any compromise of a single point in the network deprive people of Internet service? Evidently new quality standards will have to be imposed by the government, since ISPs are not providing adequately reliable service on their own. Triple redundancy. So that whatever happens, there is time to fix the broken part before the two remaining parts in parallel both fail. Of course, more basic and important things than Internet service, such as electrical power and telephone service need to be brought up to this standard as well.

    1. Kernel Silver badge

      Re: It Shouldn't Be Possible

      "But how could any compromise of a single point in the network deprive people of Internet service?"

      Umm - because the average household isn't prepared to pay the extra cost of having diverse last mile feeds?

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