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HomeAnonymousCable Thieves Leave Oxfordshire UK Village Offline for Nea…

Cable Thieves Leave Oxfordshire UK Village Offline for Nea…


Some 400 homes across the rural Oxfordshire (England) village of Ardington have been left disconnected from their broadband and phone services for almost two weeks, which occurred after criminals stole more than 500 metres of underground copper cable from Openreach’s local network.

The community, which is predominantly covered by Openreach’s ADSL and Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) based broadband network (although a couple of patches may have FTTP too), began to experience connectivity problems on 2nd August 2023. As the outage continued, residents soon began to complain about the impact on their lives and businesses, with some concerned about the impact on vulnerable members of the community.

NOTE: Such thefts usually occur late at night, often – but not always – in rural or suburban areas (slower police response) and around manhole covers, cables, poles and any other parts of their broadband network.

According to the Oxford Mail, the connection problems began after criminals ripped more than 500 metres worth of Openreach’s heavy core copper telecoms cable out of the ground, causing significant damage to other parts of their network in the process. Sadly, repairing such damage is an inherently slow, expensive and complex process.

Openreach are now warning that their work may need a bit longer before everything is back to normal. The perpetrators of such crimes, who typically cut up and then sell the stolen copper on to scrap metal dealers, never have any regard for the harm they cause to locals, some of which depend upon their home phone service.

A Spokesperson for Openreach said:

“We’re really disappointed that residents in and around Ardington are having to bear the brunt of criminal behaviour and theft from our network. These attacks cause significant damage and unacceptable disruption to the lives of local people and put vulnerable people at risk.

More than 500 metres of underground cable was taken in this incident, and the damage is impacting phone and broadband service to around 400 local homes and businesses. Engineers have been working to restore phone and broadband but the scale nature and scale of the damage is so significant that we’ve had to bring in extra resource.

We’re doing our best to get the work done quickly and safely but it could be the middle of next week before everything’s back up and running.

We’re already using anti-theft technology to help track stolen cable and convict criminals and our Security team is working closely with Thames Valley Police along with organisations like Crimestoppers, the National Crime Agency, British Transport Police and Network Rail, to tackle the problem together.

We encourage anyone who is still experiencing problems to contact their provider who will advise us. We also urge people to call 101 to report any suspicious activity to the police.

Examples of this activity include seeing people lifting manhole lids or unusual activity around our network in fields late at night, particularly if it involves 4×4 vehicles. If members of the public do believe a crime is in progress then they should dial 999.”

The rollout of Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based broadband ISP lines should, eventually, help to reduce such thefts as fibre has no value to thieves. However, this won’t completely stop the problem from occurring in the short to medium-term because fibre and copper cables often share some of the same ducts – thieves sometimes mistakenly also pull fibre out of the ground thinking it’s copper.

Despite the problems, it’s worth pointing out that all of the major mobile network operators – EE (BT), Three UK, Vodafone and O2 (VMO2) – do appear to have reasonable to good 4G based (mobile broadband) signal coverage of the community.

Customers in the area who are members of an ISP that is a signatory to the automatic compensation scheme should be compensated for the outage. At present this scheme is supported by most of the major ISPs including BT, Hyperoptic, Sky Broadband (inc. NOW Broadband), TalkTalk, Utility Warehouse, Virgin Media, Vodafone (only on Openreach’s network), EE, Plusnet and Zen Internet.

Finally, Openreach has a partnership with Crimestoppers, which offers rewards for information given anonymously to the charity about cable thefts, if it leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible – you can contact them 100% anonymously on 0800 555 111 or use their anonymous online form. You can also contact Openreach’s security team direct or report via the local police (101), or if you see a crime in progress, then call the police on 999.

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