Copper wire thieves knocked out fiber optic cable

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Thousands of customers in Northern Utah now have their telephone and Internet service restored after thieves attempted to steal a thousand feet of copper cable, but got fiber optic cable instead.

Someone snuck through a hole in a fence near 1400 West and 200 South Monday morning, then lifted heavy iron lids to get to a series of cables, which carry telephone and Internet to Tooele, western Utah and northeastern Nevada.

The thieves cut the line from one vault and pulled out a thousand feet of cable out another several blocks away. They left it there, apparently disappointed to find fiber optic rather than copper, which draws a pretty penny on the black market.

Bryan Scott, IT manager at Beehive Telephone says, "They cut it and they find that there's no value in it at all (in the scrap metal market) leaving a mess for us to clean up," he said.

It took nearly 24 hours for Beehive Telephone's crews to string the cable back through the line and repair the damage, and cost an estimated $20,000.

"It's a headache and a nightmare," Scott said. "Not only are we affected but people are now without internet, telephone, things that they require for their jobs. Businesses are down, doctors are down, hospitals, 911 circuits."

Beehive Telephone said the company's president has supported legislation to prohibit scrap-yard purchase of copper wire without proof of ownership.

In 2008, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch sponsored a bill to that end, but it did not pass.

Anyone with information is asked to call Salt Lake City police at 801-799-3000.


Story compiled with contributions from John Daley and Marc Giauque.


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