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Copper cable thieves kick Shetland Islands when they’re down

If you thought that cable thieves nicking copper out of your street only affected your ability to surf the web think again.

Residents of the Shetland Islands suffered a broadband blackout after cable was stolen in the north of England. For three hours on Wednesday access to the web on the islands was restricted.

This blow came immediately after a BT fault at Aberdeen caused another blackout on Tuesday night.

From 11:45pm on Tuesday until 7:15am the next morning, radio stations at Saxa Vord on Unst, Collafirth Hill in Northmavine and Fitful Head and Compass Head in the south mainland were out of action. Only Lerwick’s coastguard station and Whiteford Hill in Orkney were still active.

Coastguard volunteers were required to man the hills the length of the islands and listen out for shipping emergencies on portable radios.

A coastguard spokesman told Shetland News that there were no incidents, but was critical of both BT’s network and the government plans to close the Lerwick station.

“Our argument against the government closing the Lerwick station was in case of something like this. If this sort of thing happened there would be nothing here,” he said. A BT spokesperson apologised for the breakdown in service.

This isn’t the first time the Scottish islands have been blasted by broadband bothers. In 2010 major outages crippled the region, leaving BT customers hanging. The Islands have since been awarded over £300,000 for investment in next-gen fibre broadband. Shetland Telecom installed the first leg of its fibre network in December last year.

Shetland’s broadband situation aside, this is an example of how cable theft, a real problem, can have a knock off effect elsewhere in the UK. 

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