Stealing copper cable

A communications failure earlier today at Fredericton International Airport was caused by thieves stealing copper cable.

Bell has experienced 60 such incidents in the past 12 months just in New Brunswick. Although a news report says 4 people were arrested last November for copper theft, the damage to critical infrastructure is continuing.

New Brunswick Power and individual homes have also been victimized by theft of power cables and copper pipes. A man died in 2019 after breaking into a power substation in Bathurst, NB.

Last October, the New Brunswick legislature amended its Salvage Dealers Licensing Act, so that scrap yards are no longer able to pay cash and are required to check government issued identification.

Bell is asking provincial and federal governments to increase fines and make changes to the Criminal Code of Canada saying such measures are necessary to improve the resiliency of Canada’s telecommunications networks. Addressing the scourge of thieves stealing copper cable was identified as a top priority in the recent report [pdf, 475KB] from the Canadian Telecommunications Network Resiliency Working Group

This isn’t just a problem for telecom service providers, as we saw with the impact on flights in and out of Fredericton today. Stealing copper cable from power and communications networks can be a matter of public safety, impacting access to emergency service bureaus, hospitals and first responders. And, it cost at least one would-be thief his life.

As Bell CEO Mirko Bibic wrote, urgent action on the part of government is needed as part of protecting Canada’s critical infrastructure.

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