back to article Thieves target BT cables as scrap value rises

Thieves in Sussex made off with more than half a mile of BT cabling in an overnight operation that cut off 800 homes and businesses. The line was ripped out at between 1am and 2am on Wednesday morning from a rural road near Lewes. Workers discovered the theft at 4am. The recent recovery in the price of copper has once again …


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  1. Number6

    The Answer

    Fibre to the home is the obvious answer, much cheaper than having to replace all those copper cables each time.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. JasonW

    Copper Theft

    Maybe if they replaced all the copper with fibre, they could flood the scrap market *and* give us a true broadband system?

    I'll stop smoking the strange cigarettes now.

  4. Richard Scratcher

    Coppers and robbers

    Surely BT could set up some alarm loops along its larger cables to detect their being cut.

    Also, if Thatcher's government hadn't stopped BT from supplying video in the 80s, many of those cables would be glass not copper. And we'd have faster internet connections.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Well Done.

    How come the Network Management system did not alert them when the cable was cut?

    I was always under the impression they had fibre alongside the copper to detect breaks in near real time.

    Green light for more of the same IMHO.

  6. TimothyB


    Maybe this is why BT is suddenly so happy to replace copper with fibre, they want to sell the old cables...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should I invite the local scallies to do this down my lane?

    How many weeks of early Sunday morning replacements of a couple of miles of copper would be needed before BT gave up and put fibre along the poles, thus finally giving my area the bandwidth we pay for?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How much is it really worth...

    So much would 800m weigh? and be worth?

    Every time I hear this, all I think about is the small 5mm cabling spanning the poles, but they said they used a vehicle to remove it... from the ground?! I assume it was some kind of duct?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At a cost

    of 45k I would assume that they replaced it with Fibre?

    That would certainly speed up their plans.

    If not then that's just plain stupid.

  10. The Jase


    "across 40 per cent of the country by 2012"

    Ambitious. That's a lot of road that needs to be pulled up.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    easier ways of making a buck

    Simply set up a foreign exchange bureau specialising in buying US coinage and smelting it for the metal content. Only don't do it in the US because it became illegal as soon as the metal value exceeded the face value on the coins.

    anon, since even though I don't think there's anything illegal in pointing this out, I don't think the Secret Service (whose job it is to protect US currency) would approve.

  12. Steve Todd

    When BT upgraded

    the main trunk cable from London to Manchester from copper to fibre optic they made a profit on the deal. That's right, the scrap value of the old cable was more than the cost of the replacement.

    You would have thought that they'd be keener to upgrade the whole network to optical for this reason. Not much scrap value in glass cables for thieves also (though some are still stupid enough to steal it).

  13. Peter Simpson 1

    Simple solution

    Require all scrap dealers to get ID from anyone selling them scrap. Insure that the police visit them randomly to verify that they're doing this.

    Amazing how someone will discover, when asked for a driver's license, that they've just decided they will hold on to the large pile of dirt-covered telecom cable in the back of their truck.

    Seriously, how hard is it to catch these bozos? I would suspect that scrap metal dealers usually know a good portion of their clientele, and that a new face flogging dirt-covered cable might raise a few eyebrows.

    //mine's the one with the mud stains on it

  14. Anonymous Hero

    What's with the $ values on the copper?

    It's a UK story, why are we being quoted copper prices in dollars?

  15. peyton?

    The interwebs are a basic human right now?

    Am i right?

    So along with theft, can they be charged with crimes against humanity too?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    its happened twice in the past 2 months where I live near the yoxall exchange.

  17. Mike007 Bronze badge


    but, what's the resale value of fiber? worth more than copper or less?

    might make the problem worse!

  18. Rob Beard
    Black Helicopters

    I smell a conspiracy...

    ... it's probably those poor folks out in the middle of nowhere who have got crap broadband speeds who have taken it upon themselves to get BT to lay fibre to the cabinets (or premises). :-)


  19. anonymous sms

    robbin' bastards

    £45,000 is small beer to BT.

    They could easily recoup that with another MOD call center fraud or wrongly charge a few customers for 'repair' work.

  20. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Lets hope

    the theives find out how much copper is used in 33Kv and 11Kv power lines and in the sub stations that transform the power down to the 240v we all get.

    A crime that has a suitable punishment

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Win Win all round.... :)

    1: The pikeys get cheap source of Copper to flog to the local dodgy scrappy, which then flogs it off to china...

    2: The coppers get something else to do at 3am(other than chase chav boyracers across the countryside), like wonder why the local police station has lost connection to the regional HQ.

    3: BT gets a good reason to upgrade the lines with Fibre and also saves themselvesthe cost of removing the original cables (all now at the cost of thier insurance premiums)

    4: The Insurance Co's get good reason to jack everyones insurance rates up nationwide and lay on a surcharge for profit margin.

    5: All the BT/teleco customers get faster broadband.....

    ....oh but all the BT customers get shafted for the increased profit margin of BT/telecos on the excuse that they have to pay for all the extra work/parts to fix the damage done by the cheeky chappies running about with 7.5Tonne flatbed trucks at 2-5am.

    (btw, anyone want a new patio/driveway laid, we can do it real cheap, will beat all local competition, lots of experience, we also have a special offer of 5 Ton of copper available for £££, can deliver overnight only)

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Trouble is, fibre also gets nicked in the belief that it's copper. Some of these thieves aren't the brightest.

  23. Jedi Name Germinator

    Well here in Calgary...

    ... when you take scrap in you have to produce 2 forms of ID (mostly just your drivers license).

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Like to see there faces

    When they pull sweet aluminium out of the duct.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Not theft

    Just vandalism.

    The only way to get BT to replace their shitty copper is if you rip out of the ground yourself.

  26. John Dougald McCallum

    Coper to Fibre

    Only trouble is that the theives cant tell the differance see black plastic covered cable and they will assume it is worth stealing .

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  28. Evil Genius
    Paris Hilton

    fibre shmiber

    Wouldn't matter if you replaced copper with fibre as the idiots will still rip it out just in case. Ask Global Crossing how much fibre optic they have lost this year.

    Paris as she been bought and sold.

  29. bluesxman

    That's some high class robbing.

    Round here all they do is steal drain covers and pavement. Yes, pavement.

  30. Jim 46
    Paris Hilton

    RE:What's with the $ values on the copper?

    > It's a UK story, why are we being quoted copper prices in dollars?

    And in weights in quaint olde imperial pounds instead of metrics? Sloppy work indeed Reg!

    No harm done though, lets see if we cant fix this up.. $3 per pound... that works out to about...

    4 Euros per Kilogram.

    There you go AH, you can stop clutching your chest and relax, how 'bout you put the kettle on, and make us all a cuppa...

    Paris: she doesnt know much about stealing copper, but she *has* been caught on camera taking wood...

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @Boris the Cockroach

    Been done! I have pics of the fried body. And then we had pork for dinner (not fried, however)

  32. David Neil

    Won't be dirt covered

    I they can organise nicking that lot, they will be able to burn off the insulation and shift it in smaller, bagged lots.... I would imagine.

    Up here there was a spate of thefts of signalling cable from beside rural railways a while back, not too clever when you have 20 coal wagons rumbling down a single rack stretch

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: What's with the $ values on the copper?

    The copper market is global and traded in dollars.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    I'll go you one better

    Here in Atlanta, the copper thieves have been pulling the wiring out of the boxes that power/control the traffic cameras along the interstates. And yes, we've also had thieves pull wiring and A/C tubing out of houses that were still under construction. And, saving the best for last, one pair that tried to pull the multi-kV lines... needless to say that one of them got electrocuted.

  35. Winkypop Silver badge

    String em up

    With coper wire!

  36. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    no modern US coins worth melting.

    Valuable metals have been gone from US coinage for many years.

  37. Jonathan McComb

    @ Richard Scratcher

    BT don't need to put in any kind of alarm to alert them to nefarious happenings, they just wait for the punters to start screaming at them..

  38. Svantevid

    @ Jim, "What's with the $ values on the copper?"

    "in weights in quaint olde imperial pounds instead of metrics? Sloppy work indeed Reg!"

    Sloppy indeed... weight in El Reg articles/comments is calculated in Jubs.

    Ergo, the price of copper is 3 $ per 0,108 Jb, or 4 € per 0,2381 Jb.

  39. Tom Davies

    So what was it worth?

    The first question anyone will have on reading that article is "what was the copper in the cabel worth?" And you call yourselves journalists! :-)

  40. copsewood

    Richard Scratcher

    @Richard Scratcher

    BT certainly had breakage alarms along larger cables when they went when I worked for a contractor for them in the seventies. This is probably why the thieves struck in the early hours of the morning - as it takes longer for someone from a regional response centre to get to the crime scene than local staff.



    The urban cables or those beside large roads are in ducts. Many rural cables alongside quiet roads were (in the seventies and probably still are) simply buried beside the road using a trenching tool. Not so strong against this kind of attack as a ducted cable but a much cheaper solution.

  41. Andy 70

    had some train problems last year....

    because some pikey's had nabbed the overhead lines and other power related cabling.

    unfortunatly while we stood waiting for a train that would never arrive, we didn't have the pleasure of looking at a charred corpse hanging from the wires with fake dole claims paperwork still smoldering in its pockets.

    brave/stupid. either or. only one outcome would have been acceptable from that activity for the populous as a whole. see above.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    hidden cost of fiber to the home

    Its all well and good saying replace the copper with fiber but what happens to the cost of my kellogz all bran ? I have already noticed the cost skyrocketing for this essential 'silver surfer' staple.

  43. TeeCee Gold badge


    I can answer that. The resale value of fibre is reduced to zero as soon as you attach a Toyota pickup to one end and rip it out if the ground by brute force.

    Some enterprising Nigerians found this one out the hard way when they tried to ransom a "highly valuable" cable back to the local arm of a western company after they'd nicked it. They's been operating this scam for years and were rather upset to find that their chosen occupation was being made redundant by the advance of technology.

    Gave me a good laugh when I heard this one firsthand.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Networking Experts

    Lots of networking experts on here, with excellent solutions. As usual.

    Yes, I suppose BT could have replaced the stolen copper with fibre (note the UK English spelling) but it would have presented a few challenges. Firstly it is, so I'm led to believe, quite hard to joint a fibre to the five hundred pair copper cable that would have been jointed to the stolen cable. It's also a fairly hard job to then take that fibre and connect it to the phone sockets in homes and businesses without replacing the entire distribution network and issuing every customer with new kit.

    Now, if I was managing the incident - my preference would be to get customers back in service as quickly as possible - but now I see the error of my ways. It would be much better to leave them out of service for weeks while the entire local network is replaced and new optic terminating kit is ordered, delivered and installed for every building served by the stolen cable. That just leaves the tricky problem of jointing the fibre to the existing copper cable - probably a roll of insulating tape or something would help with that.

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