Digicel T&T Chief Executive Officer Abraham Smith says over the past five months, more than 10,000 customers have lost service because of copper thieves cutting their lines.
The problem, however, is that Digicel’s lines do not have copper in them so the thieves would have damaged infrastructure, then had no use for the material they escaped with.
“Our Digicel Plus network is a full 100 per cent fibre to the home, fibre to the business broadband service. So, there’s no copper in our lines. So, when our lines are deliberately cut by the thieves looking for copper they disrupt service, they inconvenience customers, it creates costly repairs and they’re not even able to do anything with those lines, so it ends up just being a huge cost in a in a huge economic impact to customers and us,” Smith said.
Smith said apart from the copper theft, thieves are now going even further and stealing the batteries at cell towers.
“When you have a cell tower, you have grid power to it, sometimes you have a generator, but all the time you have a set of batteries that that site actually runs off of and so people are busting in and stealing those, stealing those batteries,” he said.
Smith said the situation has become a national security issue and should not be taken for granted.
“If people are blowing up water pipes, we wouldn’t be so calm, right? So, I think this is that important to people’s lives, we’ve got to take some action,” Smith said.
He called on citizens to name and shame vandals.
“Come out and report the theft as it’s happening so we can really get these thieves and hold them accountable and I think until communities and neighbours start really naming and shaming folks, this is it’s going to be hard to get under control. And this is an issue that’s so important to people’s daily life that I think if we all get more motivated to observe and report,” he said, lamenting the situation.
“We put hundreds of millions of dollars into making and building a really world class fibre optic network here. And when you look at the coverage area, the speeds, the price points, reliability, you know it’s one of the best fibre networks in the Caribbean and probably in the world so to see it being vandalised, it’s not only an inconvenience to folks, but it’s offensive. Smith said.
He said the situation affects people’s ability to work from home, be educated and be entertained.
“I think it’s a real shame. And so, it’s a national problem and we need a national all hands-on deck solution,” he said.
Smith said while vandalism is an issue that Digicel is dealing with internationally, this copper theft problem seems to be limited to T&T.
“We don’t see anything like what we’re seeing in Trinidad and Tobago right now,” Smith said.
Just last weekend, thieves also hit TSTT underground lines at Cross Crossing, San Fernando, disrupting full services for several hours. TSTT also last week revealed that 306 people had so far been arrested and charged with stealing its cable wires.