New Brunswick utility sees 60 copper wire thefts in just six months
Waking up with no television, internet, and home phone was worrisome for Ray Montgomery.
The Geary, N.B., man was among about 1,000 people affected by copper wire thefts downing telecom lines in the Oromocto area on Monday.
"My parents who live just in front, both have the Lifeline,” Montgomery said of a device used to alert first responders in the event of an emergency.
“It works off the phone system, so right now they have no Lifeline. It's not operable at all,” he said.
Crews spent hours replacing the copper wire that was stripped from the poles.
It's not the first times thieves have struck the area, and it's not the only place they've hit Monday.
The company admits it’s an ongoing problem.
"This really started in the summer of 2022,” said Glen LeBlanc, Bell CFO and Vice Chair Atlantic. “There's really been an escalation though the fall. Just since October, we've had 60 copper thefts, if you can believe it, and 20 since January alone.”
According to a social media post from Bell's CEO, it has impacted network reliability for more than 900 hours in New Brunswick.
"Thieves appear to be targeting locations where large amounts of copper wire are available,” said RCMP Cpl. Hans Ouellette. “We've seen most recently as well that they're targeting lines directly related to some of our telecommunication services.”
“So police and the RCMP continue to work with partner agencies [and] telecommunication agencies to address these types of thefts,” he said.
According to LeBlanc, the Fredericton surrounding area is one of the hardest hit and the company is taking extra measures.
"[It’s] extremely high,” LeBlanc said. “This would be the worst we've experience in any province in the country. The cost alone -- this will cost us over $1.5 to $2 million dollars in labour and materials, just to repair the damages that are done.”
"We've hired security, we're increasing cameras that we have in our network, alarms, but the problem is that we have thousands and thousands of copper hanging on the pole,” the CFO added.
Montgomery is worried about how all this damage will affect the customer's bottom line.
"Obviously there's costs to this whole process, so who do the costs eventually get passed down to? It's us, the consumer,” Montgomery said.
The CEO of Bell is asking provincial and federal governments to help improve the resiliency of Canada’s telecommunications networks.
"Naturally, like any business, if you have escalating costs of this magnitude, one day it has to be looked at and addressed, but that is absolutely not where our head is right now,” said LeBlanc.
CTV Atlantic News is owned by Bell Media.
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