There has been talk about running fiber optics straight to the home, but right now much of the Internet still arrives at its destination via copper wire—the stuff used for telephone services.
Copper wire has hung on as an Internet delivery method thanks partially due to technology advancements such as vectoring, which lets copper wire carry more data. But operators have other problems with copper beyond just throughput. With the price of copper on the rise, theft has become a problem.
Last month California's state technology infrastructure suffered an outage after thieves stole portions of a copper cable over a one-mile stretch between the Vacaville and Napa areas.
At least eight departments for the State lost access to their websites and e-mail, according to the California Department of Technology. The Public Utilities Commission's website was inaccessible for much of the day, for instance, while AT&T (News - Alert) diagnosed and fixed the problem.
California is one of the top five states for metal theft, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
It has been costly to taxpayers, too; Sacramento spent $1.5 million for repairs when a quarter of the city’s 40,000 streetlights were out of commission after copper wire was stolen over the course of 18 months.
Verizon (News - Alert) also has stories to share about copper theft, although it was able to apprehend the criminals.
A couple of bandits were caught stealing copper wire from a Verizon storage facility recently in Braintree, Mass.
Two men, 32- and 21-years-old, respectively, were caught loading up their van with copper cable. Police nabbed the men a short time later after an employee spotted the theft. The police found $3,000 worth of the precious metal in their vehicle.
The two men are likely to face larceny and trespassing charges.
Copper theft is increasingly a problem due to the great rise in metal prices. Carriers are starting to offer large rewards for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.
That’s because the replacement cost and the manpower involved are expensive and a big hassle for telecom firms.
In the case of the Verizon theft, the copper came from storage. But as AT&T learned in California, often thieves just pull the lines down off poles (and come dangerously close to power lines in the process).
Edited by Rory J. Thompson