1 A growing disaster
A kilo of copper is currently sold for 9 euros in the materials market. What awakens the greed of thieves, who by stealing 300 m of cable (approximately 500 kg of copper), can hope to get €4,500! Since January 2022, operator Orange has seen 28km of cable disappear on its Breton network, during 78 flights. 7,000 customers, individuals, companies and healthcare institutions, were victims of an unexpected outage in their Internet network. If Finistère-Nord was particularly affected, since this weekend, Côtes-d’Armor has been the target of numerous attacks. Five thefts were committed there. : three on the night of Sunday 20 to Monday 21 November (in Pontrieux, Saint-Agathon and Plounévez-Moëdec) and two on the night of Monday 21 to Tuesday 22 November, in Calanhel and Plourac’h. Another theft was suspected during the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, November 23, in Gurunhuel. Note that neighboring municipalities are sometimes completely affected by cuts.
2 How do thieves work?
Thieves operate at night, in isolated and unlit village streets. “There is no work at night in the networks, if you observe something, report it on the 17th, above all do not intervene yourself,” advises Philippe Ansquer, Internet incident manager at Orange. Specifically, the criminals described as “very fast and smart”, open the metal plates of the “rooms” of the operators, in which the networks sleep, under the road network. They cut the cable, pull on one end to remove it “sometimes with the help of trailer hitches, a dropping train or a fork”. They then carry out sections of several meters to transport it, potentially in specific outlines. “Thieves have equipment. On average, they fly between 300 and 600 m of cable, but sometimes it’s several km,” says Erwan Le Gorju, director of relations with local authorities in Côtes-d’Armor.
3 A fast and well organized network
Orange has a surveillance center that allows it to directly detect the failure of a box network and notify the gendarmerie in case of suspected theft. The army and the prefecture have been mobilized to stop the phenomenon. But if the thugs are not caught red-handed, the chances of finding them are slim. “In Brittany, we have 15 million poles, we can’t put a surveillance system on every cable,” says Delphine Escure, communications manager for Orange in Lannion. “Thieves adapt to all our surveillance systems. We think that they go very quickly: they act in less than half an hour, sometimes in ten minutes, it is done. For fifteen days, they can operate in the Cotes-d’Armor, then leave for Morbihan. We run after it, it’s cat and mouse, “send the agents of Orange. If in Brittany, no theft was solved, one of them could be in Sarthe. “It was an organized gang that was getting ready to start a cable in Eastern Europe. “
4 Complicated repairs
The repair process is complicated for the operator. “There is a whole chain of interventions to be planned, which does not depend only on Orange. You have to have the necessary stock of copper cables or pass them, get the necessary work permits, sometimes you also have to rebuild the road”, explains Erwan Le Gorju. tookr acts carried out this weekend in the region of Lannion and Guingamp, Orange hopes to be able to restore connections next week. In the meantime, customers are invited to contact the operator, who can provide them with equipment to enable them to connect to the Internet via their mobile phone or a loaner mobile phone.