back to article The last mile's at risk in our hostile environment. Let’s go the extra mile to fix it

Most of us, from time to time, have grievances with our network operators. We complain, we leave bad reviews, we rage-post. But some aren't content with just whinging verbally. They take it up a notch and cut cables, lift street access covers and pour in petrol, they burn down masts. The UK is seeing more of these attacks and …

  1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Made you Click

    Another clickbait for comments article from El Reg.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Made you Click

      Genuinely interested - why do you say that? It seems to me to be an opinion piece designed to stimulate thought and debate.

      1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: Made you Click

        It pushes too many buttons. Crime and punishment, controversial techinical and legislative solutions and Openreach tossed in as our favourite panotmime villain, all based on a premise as thin as an ISP's promise. The only thing missing was that Kate's poor photoshopping was down to losing her broadband because of vandalism of the local cabinet by an eco mob.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Made you Click

          And yet here you are with a silver badge indicating you post regularly. I thought it made some thought-provoking points, and indeed caused me to think aout a couple of aspects of my own company's connectivity. Can't say I felt any buttons pushed and from the downvotes, I'm maybe not the only one who thinks you're being a bit oversensitive.

        2. parrot

          Re: Made you Click

          It’s the Bob Dylan bit that got me. Now if you’ll excuse me I have a severe expectorate I want to remunerate.

    2. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Re: Made you Click

      It raises some valid points. The IRA bombing the Post Office Tower would have caused significant damage in the 70s, but long term, the effect would be minimal. Businesses carried on trading, and people lived their lives.

      Technology has changed that. Take Saturday. Sainsburys were essentially restricted to cash only, and had to cancel everyone's deliveries. Tesco canceled their deliveries also. This caused the public significant problems because over the last few years, we've been encouraging people to switch to cashless payment systems. Not only that, but the various banks and building societies have closed a lot of their branches, and removed cash machines, so cash was generally not freely available.

      Now, the problems on Saturday were only for a few hours, but take out the right piece of infrastructure, and you could disrupt people for months. Take out something like a network connection for the Stock Exchange, and you could cause severe financial problems for a lot of people. Possibly bankrupting them.

      I think infrastructure in general needs better protection, and in a lot of places, better redundancy. Think your mobile network provider merging with another produces better connections. I had a T Mobile phone just as they started merging with Orange to form EE. At the beginning, I got a good connection nearly everywhere I went, This got progressively worse as they started shutting down duplicate cell sites, ending up quite terrible both where I worked at the time, and where I lived.

  2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

    Non-Redundant Redundancy

    You can contract with two different ISPs, running two physically-separate sets of cables into opposite ends of your building, but that helps you not a whit if both of those ISPs depend upon the same upstream providers, who concentrate their (relatively) low-speed links into a set of super-duper high-speed links, all running through the same fiber, or through the same conduit, 'cause it's easier and cheaper that way.

    Downstream customers have no control over what upstream providers do. That's a single-point-of-failure. Game over.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Non-Redundant Redundancy

      You can contract with two different ISPs, running two physically-separate sets of cables into opposite ends of your building, but that helps you not a whit if both of those ISPs depend upon the same upstream providers,

      This is more a customer awareness issue, linked to this comment from the article-

      Setting a minimum level of service for all operators, fixed and mobile, would be a huge step forward against vandalism, coordinated physical attacks, and other hazards.

      So a client goes to the expense of getting 2 ISPs, diverse entry and all that jazz. The client thinks they have a 'diverse' solution, but they do not. They have 2x single services from 2 providers and absolutely zero assurance of diversity over the life of the contract. As you say, there is pretty much zero protection against circuits or traffic ending up going via a SPOF, especially with smaller providers. BT offers a service called 'assured seperacy' that guarantees a minimum distance between circuit paths. Other providers can do the same, and the main difference is their OSS can tag the circuits so if there's grooming, or regrooming they can be flagged to maintain seperacy. It's more expensive, but it works. Mostly.

      But this stuff is also why infrastructure attacks may be becoming more severe. More people have .kmz files showing in pretty good detail where physical infrastructure runs. So it doesn't take a lot of effort to build up a map. Send in an RFQ for diverse connections into a large datacentre, look at the .kmz for where to cut to isolate that datacentre. It can be depressingly easy to do this, especially when manhole covers are often marked with the provider. Those maps often aren't stored securely, so could be compromised by attackers.

      Setting a minimum service level won't do anything to fix the problem, other than make services more expensive. The problem is infrastructure is just too easy to identify. Legislation that increases the penalties for vandalism or deliberate attacks might help, but at the moment the punishment is pretty weak compared to the actual damage caused. It is possible to use civil courts to recover costs, but if it's a cable thief or vandal, there won't be money to recover damages.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Non-Redundant Redundancy

        Penalties are irrelevant.

        The chance of a miscreant actually being caught and prosecuted is almost zero, and they know this.

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Non-Redundant Redundancy

      "You can contract with two different ISPs, running two physically-separate sets of cables into opposite ends of your building, but that helps you not a whit if both of those ISPs depend upon the same upstream providers"

      That doesn't seem to b the proposed solution. As I understand, the idea would be that the physical cable connection is backed up by basic cellular coverage at a low bandwidth that is just for "keeping the lights on". I guess it is possible that the cellular backhaul network has some commonalities with ISP networks, but these more central networks would be far better protected than 'last-mile' cables.

  3. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

    A neighbour here in the UK has FTP. The fibre emerges from the ground at the edge of the footpath and lies along the surface of their paved forecourt alongside a party wall for some four meters before rising in a loose loop about 30 cm into an equipment box of some sort on the house wall. None of this is trunked and there's a lot of slack in the run, so quite apart from vandalism it's highly likely to get snagged and broken accidentally. Seems to me it would have been so easy to bury a conduit and feed the fibre through it.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

      Seems to me it would have been so easy to bury a conduit and feed the fibre through it.

      "Cabling on the consumer premises is the responsibility of the consumer." I know various people who've ended up with the cable draped across their front lawn.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

        I find the lawn service's lawnmowers are a great fix for that.

        It's not on my premises until it hits the demarc. That's why it's called the "demarc" because the demarcation point determines if the customer or the telecommunications provider is responsible for maintenance, and that's not at the street corner, that's the box there on my wall with the FCC stamps on it.

        It's fun to see the sudden realization on the tech's face when he realizes you know what you're talking about and he can't half-ass it.

        It's going to keep getting run over by a lawnmower until you bury it, buckwheat.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

          It's going to keep getting run over by a lawnmower until you bury it, buckwheat.

          Depends on the country. In the UK, it can be common for the home/landowner to be responsible for the part of the service that's on their property. Even when that's not the case, you may still find yourself liable for repairs to the SP's side of the demarc, if your actions caused the damage. It's no different to charging contractors for backhoe fade. Again it's one of those things that should have been sorted out during the installation, although the SP may have charged for the burial.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

            The installation should at least have been done competently. I doubt laying the fibre on the ground surface would count as that. I hate the overhead mess that's being made (or made worse depending on the number of copper lines already strung overhead) but it's at least a reasonably secure way to get the connections to the premises. I'd have thought there'd be some minimum standards for height of non-buried cables and maybe depth of buried ones. Zero wouldn't work for either.

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

              The installation should at least have been done competently. I doubt laying the fibre on the ground surface would count as that.

              It depends I guess. We don't know the specifics of the install, but residential installs can get complicated. So from previous poster..

              The fibre emerges from the ground at the edge of the footpath and lies along the surface of their paved forecourt alongside a party wall for some four meters before rising in a loose loop about 30 cm into an equipment box of some sort on the house wall.

              Which is to me an immediate red flag. Or in the vernacular, excess construction charges. So burial would either be a slot trench, which would obviously mess up the paved forecourt, or lifting and reinstating the block paving which takes time and is expensive. So customer might have been given the choice of paying excess construction charges to do it neatly/properly and refused. It's just one of those things. One of the most expensive 'simple' jobs I've done was to run a roughly 250m duct and entry into a building in Camden. Slight snag, only way into the building was via a historic cobbled street. So we had to liase with council, archaeologists, architects and all to ensure each cobble was lifted and replaced exactly as it was, without any damage. And then to make it even more expensive, the client was in a Grade 1 listed building. But that's one of the reasons why quotes get caveated with 'subject to survey'. Sales spod on that one igored that caveat, signed contract with client and then got fired.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

                You make a fair point but to some extent it would be up to the property owner to make their decisions. My own cabling is underground and was laid before a concreted drive and paving laid in concrete was installed and an orchard planted over the route between perimeter and house. That makes replacing with any other media by the same route fairly unlikely. As FTTC speed is quite adequate for my needs and I don't particularly care to have overhead cabling my considered choice is to stick with that. In the situation the OP described, however, the cable appears to have been at the edge of the flagged courtyard so some sort of protection could have been fitted fairly unobtrusively into the angle between yard and wall. As for laying across a lawn which is what I mostly had in mind....

                And your salesdroid sounds as if he well deserved to be fired along with whoever hired him. Grade I listing and conservation areas should be a warning flag that it will cost a lot more. I bet the building owners were amazed to get a quote at a fraction of what everyone else was quoting.

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

                  "I bet the building owners were amazed to get a quote at a fraction of what everyone else was quoting."

                  Which in and of itself should be a huge red flag.

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

                  "My own cabling is underground and was laid before a concreted drive and paving laid in concrete was installed and an orchard planted over the route between perimeter and house. That makes replacing with any other media by the same route fairly unlikely."

                  Hopefully not on your watch? It's basic common sense to have the navvies lay in a cheap duct and pull rope when laying any form of made up ground that is across a route where you may need to repull telecoms cables any time in the life of the drive, pathway, building extensions etc. For water leccy and gas less so as they're usually installed deeper and to far higher standards.

              2. CountCadaver Silver badge

                Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

                Cables and pipes can be "moled"

                Gas network do it constantly, one small hole at each end and let the tool do the work. No damage to paving and only a small patch on the pavement needed

                1. David Hicklin Bronze badge

                  Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

                  >> Cables and pipes can be "moled"

                  As long as the mole keeps in a straight line and there are no unknown services in the way.

              3. martinusher Silver badge

                Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

                Don't need a slit trench. They used a sort of hydraulic shuttle here which pushed its way through the ground. Its not perfect -- it came close to the surface at one point and mercifully missed any utilities -- but since the fiber is in a tough orange pipe, a bit like an oversized hosepipe, its really easy to spot.

                Just rolling it out on the ground is organized incompetence.

                1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                  Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

                  Don't need a slit trench. They used a sort of hydraulic shuttle here which pushed its way through the ground. Its not perfect -- it came close to the surface at one point and mercifully missed any utilities -- but since the fiber is in a tough orange pipe, a bit like an oversized hosepipe, its really easy to spot.

                  Yep, mole drilling is another option. But not always a cheap option.

                  Just rolling it out on the ground is organized incompetence.

                  But on who's part? We don't know the story, ie if the neighbour refused to pay to have it done properly. Or why the neighbour would have accepted the install, if it were that bad. Problem is for broadband, there seems to be the perception that every connection should come with a free moon on a stick, rather than considering the costs. If only energy companies were treated the same way.

                  Reality is there's usually very slim margins on residential stuff. So on some networks I've worked on, there's an assumption that an install will be no more than 2-4 man hours of labour, and say $50 in parts. Anything above that and the service is going to lose money, so procedure should be to charge excess costs, or reject the order. Any change to installation requirements or SLAs is just going to increase the costs and make broadband more expensive, or unaffordable. Sure, it would be nice if every drop is ducted and buried, but that isn't always easy or cheap. Someone has to pay for it. It's all part of the challenge though. Some time back, there was the usual DM sadface story with somebody who's driveway had been 'ruined' because installers didn't color match grout. That's the kind of garbage field/OP people have to deal with. Me, I'd have taken a bucket of sand, some sump oil and brushed that on the drive. It's color matched now.

                  1. Roland6 Silver badge

                    Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

                    > Reality is there's usually very slim margins on residential stuff.

                    There are also slim margins on business stuff as well.

                    Basically, if you a 1Gbps leased line service over 5 years, there will be more in the installation budget than if you contract for a 200Mbps leased line over 3 years.

                    For one client, the budget did not cover either the unblocking of an existing (collapsed) duct or 6m of trenching and ducting from another duct on the other side of the building, so the cable came in via the pole which happened to be directly in front of the property.

                2. Lurko

                  Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

                  "Just rolling it out on the ground is organized incompetence."

                  No, it's intentionally cheapskate but logical business thinking, and can often be seen with the lower end of the altnets doing new FTTP installs, or some of Virgin Media's contractors. The companies know full well what the standard is for streetworks as that's already defined by the National Joint Utilities Group (and in VM's case, the standards they publish for new construction), but across private ground those standards don't definitively apply, even if they represent good practice.

                  The cost of hiring out a moling rig and workers trained to use it is for a one-off installation is usually far higher than a typical FTTP or cable installation budget allows, and with moderate customer churn rates there's no logic in doing the last few metres from the pavement to anything other than the cheapest possible standard. As a general rule, these capital-shy companies will go for direct, shallow burial such as half a spade's depth across a lawn and without conduit, and accept the cost of any repairs as part of doing business. Failing that it could be surface laid or wall mounted, either with or without conduit - I've seven seen pictures of a VM coax install with a thirty foot unsupported span above a garden, using regular unreinforced RG6 - laughable! For a long time VM didn't charge customers for "spade through cable" incidents on customer property, for the obvious reason that the installs often weren't to any acceptable standard, whether that's still the case or not I don't know. I suspect they'll try for their non-fault call out charge, and buckle if the customer points out that the fault lies with improper installation.

                  1. collinsl Bronze badge

                    Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

                    Half these subcontractors probably also bet that they won't be the subcontractor doing the repair when it inevitably breaks and some other sucker will have to foot the bill.

          2. the spectacularly refined chap

            Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

            Depends on the country. In the UK, it can be common for the home/landowner to be responsible for the part of the service that's on their property. Even when that's not the case, you may still find yourself liable for repairs to the SP's side of the demarc, if your actions caused the damage. It's no different to charging contractors for backhoe fade. Again it's one of those things that should have been sorted out during the installation, although the SP may have charged for the burial.

            No, it's enshrined in law. With the old two part line boxes the distinction was clear - the top half was the network's problem, the lower half your own. It's slightly more nebulous in the case of modern lineboxes but the operators will tend to view a fault anywhere in the single unit as their problem - it's not as if the actual box fails enough to be worth arguing over.

        2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

          It's not on my premises until it hits the demarc. That's why it's called the "demarc" because the demarcation point determines if the customer or the telecommunications provider is responsible for maintenance, and that's not at the street corner, that's the box there on my wall with the FCC stamps on it.

          Regular reminder: The US has <5% of the world's population, the other 95+% do things differently.

          In this case I was specifically talking about fibre in the UK, and CityFibre at least say that with fibre in the ground their responsibility ends at the boundary of the house's grounds(*). You want ducts, you supply the ducts for them. The same applies to water supplies – I'm responsible for the pipes after the water meter in the pavement outside my house.

          (*) No idea for lines from posts like mine.

          1. the spectacularly refined chap

            Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

            The same applies to water supplies – I'm responsible for the pipes after the water meter in the pavement outside my house.

            No it's more subtle than that. You are not responsible for anything not on your property but within it generally depends on whether it serves only you or others at the same time. It isn't unusual for mains water (and even moreso, sewerage and surface drains) to be shared between neighbouring properties. Typically you would then only be responsible for the stretch after the point which branches off to serve only you, even if the remainder is on your property.

            Used to work in home insurance claims, knowing this kind of stuff was essential to the job.

            1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

              Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

              No it's more subtle than that. … Typically you would then only be responsible for the stretch after the point which branches off to serve only you, even if the remainder is on your property.

              Well aware of it (shared sewer that's frequently been blocked by rental accommodation neighbour's actions), but didn't want to get into the details.

              Used to work in home insurance claims, knowing this kind of stuff was essential to the job.

              Useful if you're a householder as well. :-)

    2. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

      Could be worse.

      In France the government incentivised the roll out of fibre by divvying up the country into municipal parcels and giving a time-limited monopoly to one of the big ISPs in return for connecting everyone.

      In my town SFR got the gig. They sub-contract the work to monkeys whose only priority is to get the job done as quickly as possible. They do this by illegally strewing cables along and between buildings. No trunking, no ducts required.

      I watched in horror when this started to happen to my neighbours. Then it came to me. One day I noticed the appearance of a cable strung across the road from the upper storey of the house opposite and attached to my own wall. (This is an old town centre where the buildings face directly on to the roads, no gardens or yards out front.) To make matters worse, it wasn't even to for me! The cable was draped along the wall to my next door neighbour. I complained to the town hall. I got sympathy, but not much more. They forwarded my complaint to SFR who replied stating that they were authorised to commit this vandalism where it was replacing old copper wires similarly strung out in the open. That's actually pretty common in France, but wasn't the case in my street. All the old phone wired were underground.

      A few months later a second cable appeared next to that first one. It then bounces back diagonally across the road to connect a house on the other side. The street was rapidly becoming a complete mess.

      Then one day I heard the tell-tale clank of a manhole cover being lifted and spotted that the monkeys were back. I observed out of the bedroom window, and, once it became clear that they were about to hitch a third cable to my frontage, I ran down the stairs and out the front door to remonstrate. Already too late, the deed was done during those seconds. No wonder it was such a mess.

      At this moment the count is up to four. None of them is for me.

      All four, plus a few others, come up out of the pavement on the other side of the road and are dangled off a hook that happened to be embedded under the eaves. There's no trunking or protection of any kind. They are not even clipped to the wall.

      This atrocious shoddiness seems to be particular to SFR. If you're in France and not yet fibred, be very afraid.

      -A.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

        Maybe it's time to get the exterior of your house repainted. It could cause some accidental damage. Alternatively you could bill SFR for rent.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

          I used to have a dodgy phone line (although the ADSL tended to keep working). Turned out to be the exterior cabling was being strangled by ivy

        2. PRR Silver badge

          Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

          > you could bill SFR for rent.

          In the very earliest days of home dial-up, we did just that. ISPs offered local phone numbers. This was actually all re-directed at a regional switch, but the protocol implied they needed a local Point Of Presence to have a local number. Somehow one ISP got our address, offered a monthly rent to put lines on our house. I never knew if they meant to cross-circuit or if it was all tariff-foolery.

          But no actual panel or wires ever appeared. They had proposed a yearly contract, and this went on for three and a half years, when they notified us they would end the contract. (Probably about the time everybody was getting AOL diskettes every month.) I pointed to the clause in their words that the deal would go year to year, and they were on the hook for several more months.

          Youse guys bury cables?? My TV cable is laid shallower than weed-roots. The POTS line not much deeper. My neighbor's TV cable went out mid-winter (frost-heave can be severe here). The company just laid an orange cable on top of the snow and said they would be back in spring. That was 7 years ago. Even my power lines are not in conduit.

        3. captain veg Silver badge

          Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

          > Alternatively you could bill SFR for rent.

          I need to take legal advice on that, but I'm not hopeful.

          As mentioned, the monkeys took advantage of a hook already embedded in the wall opposite and, on my side, attached to the street lamp which is bolted to my house. Obviously I wouldn't have chosen to have that screwed on, but it was already there when I bought the place.

          As for accidental damage while getting the house repainted, the fact is that I could easily lean out of a bedroom window and cut the offending lines with some long-handled gardening sheers. I suppose that would be a bit obvious, but breaking an optical fibre only requires bending it beyond a certain amount, not necessarily cutting through.

          Should I do that?

          Use the Up-/Down-vote buttons below to indicate your opinion!

          -A.

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

            Your town mayor is an incompetent twit.

            I live rural, and our mayor very clearly specified two things:

            1, all cabling within the signposted part of "le bourg" runs underground. There are only a few electricity poles left now, ones they've not yet removed, or the high voltage ones supplying the village that are best left in peace.

            2, all properties within the legal definition of the village are to be connected at the same time, no taking the easy route and hooking up the village now and doing the outlying properties and farms in n years.

            Looking around, it seems that several of the nearby villages have taken similar approaches. There are a lot of new phone poles around as most of the fibre is being strung on the existing poles (but not always, sometimes it's running on poles on the other side of the road <shrug>).

            French mayors have a fair bit of clout, should they decide to get up off their arses and wield it.

          2. collinsl Bronze badge

            Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

            Just unhook them and let them fall where they may.

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: "Stop putting cabling in easy to reach, easy to breach ducting"

      There are many variables…

      For me, there is sufficient capacity in the BT ducting for the FTTP to use the ducting installed when the house was built, so the cable is only surfaced where the original copper cable was surfaced. However, if it does not have to enter the house at the same point as the original copper, in this instance the cable is ducted on the external house wall to the point of entry.

      Some friends got their connection from Virgin who didn’t use the BT duct. In this instance the cable was surfaced at the edge of the property and laid in a shallow duct and above ground due to the access being across a concrete drive etc. I expect the other alt-ISPs like Gigaclear will follow the Virgin approach and attempt to route the kerb to house cable along a route that is less likely to be disturbed. Obviously there is nothing preventing house owners digging their own trench.

      In the neighbouring town BT are deploying pole head FTTP distribution boxes, so the fibre follows the same overhead route as the pre-existing copper.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    <list of effective ways of dealing with threats>

    Yes, but they all cost money. And at that point everyone loses interest.

    This is the risk of keeping successive capitalist regimes in power ... you end up with nothing. It's all been siphoned off for the shareholders.

    1. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: <list of effective ways of dealing with threats>

      Actually, most companies seem to care even less about their shareholders than they do about their customers. Check out share price to dividend payout ratios sometime. Their priorities appear to be -- in order -- executive pay, value of executive stock options, and executive perks. Welcome to the casino, mate. Where the house always wins. Bigtime.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: <list of effective ways of dealing with threats>

      This is why such services get at least some degree of regulation. The guilty here are HMG (other, similar gummints are available) who are in such a hurry to digitalise (sic) that they're not only failing to do that, they're willingly downgrading any existing regulation to get it done.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: <list of effective ways of dealing with threats>

      "This is the risk of keeping successive capitalist regimes in power ... you end up with nothing. It's all been siphoned off for the shareholders."

      I worked on infrastructure schemes in Russia shortly after the end of communism, if you think that capitalists scrimp on infrastructure then you ain't seen nothing when socialists are in charge. My favourite was a large city, slightly smaller than London. With the need to build two deep trunk sewers and two sewage treatment plants but only half the money to do that, they built one trunk sewer and one sewage treatment plant. But the trunk sewer went to the site of the sewage works they didn't build, and the sewage works they did build didn't have an incoming trunk sewer. For almost thirty years that mean the bulk of the city's sewage was poured untreated into the upper reaches of the Baltic.

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "There was one national network operator and two threats: nuclear war and terrorism."

    There was and is more than that: floods, fires, landslips, JCBs, power outages and, not least, field engineering doing stuff without telling customer service.

    By phasing out POTS we're ending the immunity of the domestic telephone to power outages. I'm not expecting everyone to realise they need a UPS, nor of a cheap UPS's chances of surviving a real power outage. What's more the last power outage here seems to have tripped something in the local cabinet as the network went off at about the same time as the power but didn't come back until much later. In the dash to Go Digital the telcos have been handed a free pass to end the old requirement that the phones should just work.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Here in Northern California, people are finally realizing that POTS is fairly good thing to have in an emergency, just as AT&T is petitioning to remove the capability forever.

      After the Napa Earthquake (ten years ago in August), PG&E power went out, so the cell towers switched to battery backup. Some towers lasted all of a couple hours, some failed immediately (most batteries hate being kept at a high charge level). PG&E was out for a couple weeks to some areas ... so many people were without telephones for the duration of the emergency.

      And people laugh at me because I insist on keeping POTS capability. I'm not a neo-luddite, I'm an aging techie who knows how things work.

      1. AlexHeylin

        In the UK we're turning off our POTS. Yep, powering off the copper and ripping it out for recycling.

        Last month we took over an abandoned school on the site of a former water mill - in a deep valley with no mains electricity (disconnected), no mobile (cell) service within half a mile, and no ability to order a POTS line - so no phone on site.

        Thankfully we could order 1Gb FTTP with POTS interface to SIP. We had to run a generator for a month (£70 a day in diesel) just to keep the UPS (I'm no fool!) powered to keep the phone available in case of emergency.

        This, apparently, is progress. However, we could watch unlimited porn, I mean cat videos, within 30 metres of the building where the Wi-Fi would reach. Shame the site is 1000m x 500m - an area happily covered by the DECT phone, as long as the generator holds. A few times the generator refused to start... There was a lot of swearing and some percussive maintenance until thankfully it change its mind.

        1. midgepad

          Panels and battery?

          I think for z month of diesel you could have laid out a few solar panels and a battery and ckntjnue to charge your UPS to this day.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Re: Panels and battery?

            Solar PV probably needs planning permission, given the description of the location.

            There have been several cases of people installing solar panels and being forced to remove them because the site doesn't have permitted development rights.

            A "portable" generator set doesn't need planning or permitted development.

            I think the figures are wrong though, £70 of (road) diesel is about 45 litres, or about 150kWh. Red diesel would be far more. That's a really huge daily consumption!

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: Panels and battery?

              Much depends on how you mount those panels - attach to a movable frame (ie. No foundations) and it becomes a temporary structure…

            2. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: Panels and battery?

              >” I think the figures are wrong though, £70 of (road) diesel is about 45 litres, or about 150kWh. … That's a really huge daily consumption!”

              https://www.machinemart.co.uk/p/clarke-pg3800a-euro-5-3kva-single-voltage-230v/

              15 litre tank, 8.2hours running time. Hence 45 litres per day.

              However, there are quieter and more fuel efficient generators available at a similar price.

              The questions are: how long was it before the electricity was reconnected and how much did they pay for the installation of the FTTP…

          2. khjohansen
            Coat

            Re: Panels and battery?

            ... Solar ? - But this is the UK ... Maybe a waterwheel?

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: Panels and battery?

              Obvious really…

              “ on the site of a former water mill”…

          3. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: Panels and battery?

            Solar panels? in the UK?

        2. collinsl Bronze badge

          > Yep, powering off the copper and ripping it out for recycling.

          Well, except for the bit where POTS infrastructure will still be used for broadband signals to the majority of properties (since most places don't have FTTH)

  6. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

    "the idea of compulsory science classes for 5G vandals is very tempting."

    Nah, you can't fix stupid. But the notion of electric fences, minefields and bear traps around the masts has some appeal.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Removing their internet access would be a fitting punishment.

      1. PB90210 Bronze badge

        Nah... just take away their 5G-enabled phones

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Award damages against them. Attachment of earnings, charge on house, whatever. Just bring home to them that what they do has a cost.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Have to actually catch them first, and prove it in court.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          And then hope they actually have any declared income or owned property.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The Vandals of old ended in Africa.

      Send the new ones to Rwanda for educational purposes...

  7. Martin Summers

    "No mainstream domestic ISP offer includes a router configured for failover."

    Not true in the UK at all, BT/EE has offered it for a while.

    Remember your audience El Reg.

    1. BenDwire Silver badge

      I knew that I had seen a TV advert offering this, but I couldn't remember it clearly enough to register the details. (That just goes to show how effective advertising often is!)

      For those unwilling to deal with overseas call centres, yet want this functionality, have a look at my ISP, the wonderful Andrews and Arnold . Not the cheapest, but in my experience the easiest people to deal with.

      1. collinsl Bronze badge

        Use them too, very highly recommended.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        You will want to call A&A if you want to maintain a consistent inbound static IP address; just need to ensure your router supports the setup of outbound L2TP VPN (most Drayteks do).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I was going to say something similar

      My FTTP Vodafone router came bundled with a 4G dongle and SIM as part of the deal expressly for the purposes of failover.

    3. Phones Sheridan Silver badge

      I had to reply on the failover 4G service built into my BT Business SmartHub 2 today. I have 2 ADSLs from 2 providers, and following this weekends upgrade to national infrastructure both were dead this morning. The failover wasn't seamless, because the SmartHub was configured in Bridge mode, and the 4g failover only works in NAT mode. Took me about 10 minutes to plug into the SmartHub with my laptop, manually configure the IP, re-set up NAT, unplug my main VPN concentrator firewall and plug the Smarthub back into it's place and let it pretend nothing had changed. Apart from I wasn't bothering to open up ports to allow incoming services, it worked great all day.

      Now if only they had made the failover work seamlessly in Bridge mode.

      I have BT coming in hopefully tomorrow to fix the "DIS in Infrastructure" problem, then it's another 10 mins to re configure it in Bridge mode, and plug everything back in where it's supposed to be.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        I had to reply on the failover 4G service built into my BT Business SmartHub 2 today. I have 2 ADSLs from 2 providers, and following this weekends upgrade to national infrastructure both were dead this morning

        I'd say that's.. unlikely, and thus likely. So it's rare to have exchange lines going to 2 diverse exchanges. So more likely to have 2 providers in the same exchange using LLU. Then both going down if there's a power outage, or the cable to the exchange gets cut.

        Now if only they had made the failover work seamlessly in Bridge mode.

        That would mean having fixed and mobile links both active, which makes routing FUN!. Active/standby has been around for decades though using either POTS or mobile, and often used by retailers etc. Often came with some FUN! gotchas, like broadcasts (hello, MS) bringing up the dial/backup interface and generating rather large phone bills. That's usually the challenge in offering this type of config, ie configuring the failover modes and then dispute resolution if/when it doesn't, or doesn't fail back from 'expensive' dial-up to fixed line.

        1. Phones Sheridan Silver badge

          Yeah, in the 10 years we've been here, it's the first time both have gone down at the same time. This weekend was supposedly the weekend they start to roll out the FTTP upgrades at the exchanges in our town. Judging by the 4 BT vans at the top of the street this morning still, and all my neighbours having no internet since Friday midnight, it looks like the upgrades didn't go as smoothly as planned.

          I'm able to work comfortably on the wireless, I'm getting a nice 30mb down so it's not laggy.

          The biggest problem in the UK is the complete lack of alternative providers. We're at the end of a mile long road going out in the fields, there's 38 units here. Only BT provide service to the estate, so going with BT Business for the main line, and an LLU provider for the second is pretty much as good as we'll ever get, and like I said, one total outage in 10 years has been fine. Having the ability to use the 4g has been invaluable for the last 2 days, and it's not something I was paying extra for or will be billed for. Had I been on holiday, I can imagine it would have been an arse to get the 4g working, and I would have probably just told whoever was in the office, to tether to their phone, and I'd pay the bill when I got back.

          I can't believe I have something positive to say about BT :p

    4. heyrick Silver badge

      "Remember your audience El Reg."

      Came to say the same.

      I don't live in the UK any more, but I listen to Love '80s during my work drive, and quite frequently both EE and Sky (I think?) run adverts that claim their broadband is the bestest, fastest, most reliablest not only because it's new and shiny, but it also has automatic 4G rollover: one goes as far as to point out that when your broadband is down, you lose business, which means you lose customers and money.

      So, yes, in their rush to put as many thoughts into one article as possible, they forgot to do the research...

      1. devin3782

        In fairness only a few really big ISP's do this and usually those whom have mobile networks as well, you need to take care with ISP's in the UK as some provide routers with amazon alexa built in, reading the terms and conditions on those are eye opening.

    5. Roland6 Silver badge

      > BT/EE has offered it for a while.

      Not that long, during lockdown had to rig up my own router (draytek) to EE to provide this functionality.

      For many (including myself) this failover is more a maintain a basic level of connectivity than totally transparent.

      For myself it’s 40mpbs FTTP to a 4~10Mbps 4G connection, via the 4G antenna on the roof (4G dongle in back of router that’s a 1~3mbps connection).

      (Nearest 4G mast 2+ miles away)

  8. munnoch Bronze badge

    Get rid of street furniture cabinets

    I rather suspect some of these acts might be provoked by annoyance over where these cabinets are sited.

    Wireless back-up is all well and good but when your local wired network is taken out then your local wireless network will probably struggle to keep up. Few will treat it as "emergency" use only. Regular supply of cat videos being the minimum service level to most...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Get rid of street furniture cabinets

      "I rather suspect some of these acts might be provoked by annoyance over where these cabinets are sited."

      Ditto siting of 5G masts. Friends have one of these fuggly monstrosities towering over their garden. It's sited on a verge which had had a bus shelter refused planning permission because it would have blocked the sight-lines of a road junction. A mast and large box doing the same thing isn't so constrained.

  9. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Not an engineering problem

    The reason things go from just complaining to active destruction is that people get the feeling that complaining accomplishes nothing, so they have to do something more.

    So you have a 3 hour queue for customer support, and you always get hung up on 2.5 hours in.

    Or you have some captcha stupidity that doesn't let you submit your complaint form.

    Or you have some stupid scripted "chat assistant" that won't let you go any further, or worse, a scripted human doing the same.

    Or you've done 4 engineer callouts, and the guy either never shows up, or just looks at it, shrugs his shoulders and leaves.

    Or you get an email response to your complaint that "Service is our top priority and we deeply regret the impact this event has had on our customers"

    These are the things that make a bloke lift a manhole cover and pour gasoline in.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Have an upvote

      for this

      Or you have some captcha stupidity that doesn't let you submit your complaint form.

      Almost as bad at Talk-Talk demanding that you have a mobile phone when the contract is for a landline.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not an engineering problem

      It's late-stage capitalism. The conspiracy lunatics started with a sort of point - the big pharma companies and comms people don't give a shit about us, they only care about profits. The politicians aren't on our side either - they care about the people that fund them. Being angry about that sort of thing is normal. But I guess that the same politicians are quite happy that the anti-vax/anti-semitic/space-laser lunacy is mixed in as it makes any movement look ridiculous.

  10. Rosie Davies

    Thank you!

    I'd not come across the Angry Brigade before now. They sound fabulous, can we have much more of them please?

    Rosie

    1. John Sager

      Re: Thank you!

      No thank you. They are what Just Stop Oil and other eco loonies may become when their frankly impractical demands don't get met.

      1. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: Thank you!

        They (the Angry Brigade) used bombs. The "eco loonies" chuck soup.

        -A.

        1. collinsl Bronze badge

          Re: Thank you!

          so far

    2. Rosie Davies

      Re: Thank you!

      Tsk, tsk, tsk. Silly downvoters.

      The thank you is for making me aware of something that I wasn't previously aware of, more knowledge is always a good thing. So far as wanting more of it, it's more of people who feel they are negatively affected by something getting up off their behinds and actually doing something about it. Much, much better than caterwauling on unsocial media about how it's NOT FAAAAIIIIRRRRR!!!

      Whether blowing up property or not is an appropriate course of action is debatable. In the same way that whether someone is a terrorist or a freedom fighter is debatable.

      Rosie

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. chris street

    "No mainstream domestic ISP offer includes a router configured for failover"

    Zen Internet. Comes with a router that will failover, and back automatically to a plugged in 5G dongle.

  13. AlexHeylin

    Failover - available from the incumbent

    "No mainstream domestic ISP offer includes a router configured for failover."

    *cough* except for BT/EE... https://www.bt.com/exp/halo

    A little basic fact checking would have helped, Rupert.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Failover - available from the incumbent

      He did also write "...let alone one that works across cellular network operators..." which BT and Voodoo's offerings don't.

  14. CountCadaver Silver badge

    linked article is an open reach puff piece

    Near copied word for word from the open reach press release, so much that it has "OUR network" even though it's meant to be from the publications POV.

    I think open reach need ANOTHER reminder from ofcom that they are not in charge, that they no longer set the rules, that break up is still an option....

  15. shazapont
    Gimp

    The Common Sense Tzar

    Can we nominate you for the position, yet to be announced, of Common Sense Tzar?

  16. Bebu Silver badge
    Windows

    5G Vandal

    A fifth generation vandal tickled me.

    "Me dad were a vandal, his dad, his gramps, his gramps' dad were vandals - man and boy."

    A fine vocation for a young man called to the delinquents life. ;)

    Or were the chaps that sacked Rome in 455AD the 1G Vandals?

    I assume this lunacy is driven by the 5G causes covid etc etc conspiracy theory Trumpery?

    In these parts the same nonsense had some currency even though there was SFA 5G deployed at the time and basically none in the nutjob homelands. The cops' radar speed guns ought to give you Ebola by their deranged logic.

    1. heyrick Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: 5G Vandal

      I've been vaccinated multiple times against Covid. So I got upgraded to 5G, then 6G...and all the way up to Starlink. My every movement can be tracked from space (aaargh) and I've so much weirdo mRNA in me that I'll sprout antennae any day now (aaargh).

      Mine's the one with the tinfoil hat in the pocket...

  17. heyrick Silver badge

    Let's start with something simple

    The universal service obligation.

    The POTS wasn't fancy, but it worked. New smart meter exploded? Pick up the phone, call the fire brigade. Flood? Ditto. Hurricane? You might have to wait a day or two but the phone will probably be back on before the electricity is (sidenote: I was at a boarding school in West Sussex during the storm of 1987, the phones were back on the next day (mostly temporary wiring) while it took over a week for the electrics to be sorted; the 13 year old me was quite impressed by that).

    Now? I'm running my Livebox from a dinky little Chinese 12V UPS because we have frequent brownouts due to the modern computerised agricultural equipment starting up bang on time, all at the same time... The lights dip, it doesn't faze the Pi and even the monitor can ride it out. But the Livebox? Rebooted Every. Single. Bloody. Time.

    So it's now on a UPS which will run it for at least half an hour. To the point where there actually was a power cut one morning and I didn't realise until I got up to make my morning tea (Livebox, fine; El Reg, tablet, fine).

    But for those who don't realise or understand, it'll seem a lot less reliable. Smart meter blew up? Flood? Other emergency? You might not have electricity and if you don't you don't have a phone service. Or if you suffer a brownout while on the phone to somebody while trying to cope with a cardiac arrest? You're looking at 2-3 minutes for the thing to reboot, plus starting the conversation all over again.

    I think it should be an obligation for a telecoms provider to offer the option of an internet box with some sort of built in battery pack for a subsidised cost (say a one of €20 payment).

    It's not impossible. My UPS has a bunch of 18650s inside plus charging and regulation circuitry (as it outputs 12V, 9V, and 5V USB). For an internet box, it might accept 12V but does it need it, or does it immediately step that down to 5V (USB) and 3.3V (everything else)? They'll know how it works and can design it accordingly.

    Instead, the service obligation is getting thrown away with the excuse of "everybody has a mobile these days" and the internet hardware being offered is built to a specific budget, rarely (if ever) gets firmware updates, and is frequently depressingly bug ridden. A very good example of "offer the least you can and charge the most you can for it".

    1. Herring`

      Re: Let's start with something simple

      A UPS at home is all very well, but is there a battery backup for all the blinkenlightenboxen between you and what passes for an exchange? How long will it last?

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Let's start with something simple

      You could install solar panels and a home battery - 18kW UPS?

  18. Mage Silver badge
    Facepalm

    this is a new problem

    No, it's not. People been vandalising phone boxes, cable TV coax (since before it was used for broadband), stealing cables, shooting telegraph pole insulators etc at least sinc 1960s. I'm not old enough to remember earlier.

    Also anyone could easily tap analogue phone or fax from the local cabinet. I explained to the cops 30 years ago that their fax wasn't secure.

    1. anonanonanonanonanon

      Re: this is a new problem

      I was going to post, working in telecoms and utilities back in the nineties, securing copper cables was a constant problem in some areas

  19. SVD_NL Silver badge

    We're starting to get there

    In the netherlands some of the largest ISPs (KPN, Vodafone, T-Mobile, that i can think of) are starting to offer cheap cellular failover with their business internet connections.

    You'll be paying around €5-10 a month, and no data limits (although you are only allowed to use it when the internet connection fails).

    It's a step in the right direction and it won't be long until it'll be available for consumers. The main limiting factor right now is probably the cost of the required hardware for cellular failover.

    They are already pushing hard on internet+tv+mobile bundles, so i expect to see them add it for free for anyone who already has such a bundle whenever they figure out the hardware side of things.

    The only potential issue i see, is that the fiber rollout is going really fast, but the areas where fiber will be installed last are the areas where they have a really crappy DSL connection, and usually poor cellular coverage too. The new routers will be ethernet only, so they won't get the 4g backup without buying a relatively expensive router, if the backup even works.

    These are the areas most vulnerable to isolation, and they'll be the last to be protected.

  20. Dr Dan Holdsworth
    Boffin

    Make life more difficult for criminals

    A point worth making here is that we ought to be trying our best to make life more difficult for petty criminals. Stop, for instance, using copper wire wherever possible and run fibre to the individual household premises. Fibre is merely purified glass; expensive but the resale value of scrap fibre is as near nothing as makes no difference, whereas scrap copper once separated from the insulation and chopped up to make it unrecognisable does have a very real scrap value.

    Similarly cabinets need to be better armoured and also need to stop running on 230V AC. So, for that matter, do streetlights. It may have escaped everyone's attention but we are currently trying to force every vehicle owner in the country to change to battery electric vehicles (BEVs). When we manage this, we will have perforce compelled the nation's petty criminals to use BEVs as well. At this point, working out how to steal electricity will become a knotty problem at the forefront of lots of admittedly not very good minds.

    Easily-opened cabinets with recognisable UK plug sockets in them are an obvious and easy target, even if the power sockets do have fairly low-output fuses. Changing these sockets for a much less common sort, and even hiding the 230V circuits altogether and leaving merely a USB or 12V socket for the engineer to plug their kit into would go a long way towards heading off electricity theft from these cabinets before it ever becomes a known target.

    Similarly running streetlights on much lower voltage at much lower, dimmer outputs would save power and remove street lights from the list of potential electricity theft targets. The same theme should be carried on elsewhere: remove the easy targets for theft of power and copper.

  21. VK2YJS

    Cellular failover

    Due to treasonous conservatives favouring the foreigner Murdoch's pay-tv interests over the Australian population, and general wrecking of anything Labor did, we mostly ended up with "fraudband", aka VDSL aka FTTN, in place of Labor's Fibre to the Premises. In response Telstra sold / provided modems which included a SIM on their 4G network, probably now 5G.

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