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Scrap Metal Dealers Act now in force, broadband copper thieves beware

The Scrap Metal Dealers Act, has now come into force, which will make it harder for metal thieves to ruin the lives of broadband subscribers. 

The rise in metal theft has seen thieves targeting broadband access points in the streets, literally lifting the copper out of the ground in some cases. This causes disruption to people’s broadband services leaving people without internet, TV or phone services for days. 

The Act, which was passed in February this year, will require all scrap metal dealers to keep records of all scrap received, as well as taking down the names, addresses and licence plate numbers of suppliers. Cash payments for scrap are now no longer valid. 

Scrap Metal Dealers Act now in force, broadband copper thieves beware
Copper crims in cable capturing capers cause chaos for customers

Read Recombu Digital’s reports on Broadband Cable Theft and BT’s anti-theft RABIT technologyDealers will need to apply for licences issued by the local authorities in order to trade in scrap. Licences can be withdrawn if records aren’t kept up to date. BT has trialled an early warning system to detect faults on the line, often a sign of theft, and has been working closely with police forces to cut down on cable theft. 

A BT spokesperson welcomed the changes in the law: “Like other organisations that provide essential infrastructure, we welcome the introduction of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013. The old Act was no longer fit for purpose and we campaigned hard for it to be updated. 
 
“We’ll continue to work with Police forces around the UK, as well as other responsible authorities, to ensure a rapid and smooth implementation.” 

If it’s not French lightning storms or hungry rodents it’s usually some scrap metal thieves disrupting broadband connections. 

Network Rail, another long-suffering target of copper criminals, is similarly pleased with the new law. Neil Henry, head of operations and performance at Network Rail, said: “We have maintained for some time that legal reform was sorely needed in order to support our own efforts to prevent thefts and welcome the new Scrap Metal Dealers Act. 

“We will continue to work with British Transport Police to track down and seek prosecution of those who continue to flout the law and invest in methods to better protect the rail network.”

Network Rail is close to completing a £1.9 billion upgrade of its signalling network which includes installing fibre optic broadband connections. As well as making this less of a target for copper thieves, this upgrade will also supply rural broadband project Fibre GarDen with backhaul for its network. 

It’s also thought that Network Rail’s upgrade will figure in the government’s plans to improve mobile broadband reception and speed for rail users. 

Image: Joel Kramer/Flickr

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