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Copper thieves keep cutting this B.C. community’s internet: ‘It’s a public safety issue’

Click to play video: 'Mission area residents lose cable services to copper thieves'
Mission area residents lose cable services to copper thieves
Residents of a neighbourhood in a rural area of Mission say they've lost their Telus service to copper thieves four times in the past seven months. And as Grace Ke reports, some say it's much more than an inconvenience.

Residents of a rural community north of Mission, B.C., say they’re being put at risk by copper thieves responsible for repeatedly cutting their internet, phone and cable service.

People living in the Steelhead neighbourhood say copper theft has been an ongoing issue for more than a decade, and has persisted even after Telus switched most of the area to fibre-optic cable in 2021.

The most recent incident happened early Tuesday morning, knocking out service for much of the day.

Click to play video: 'Petty theft leads to big bill for business owner'
Petty theft leads to big bill for business owner

The lines have been cut four times in the last seven months alone, according to Candace Koch.

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In one case, thieves cut the line feeding the local cell tower, knocking out mobile phones as well.

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“So that put the entire community at risk for no telecommunications. Can’t call emergency or anybody,” she said.

“It’s a public safety issue and it needs to be taken seriously.”

About 800 people live in the area, which resident Jana Tennant described as “one road in, one road out.”

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Gas line damaged in copper theft led to Prince George explosion

“It keeps being removed from roughly the same location, which made no sense to us, but now we understand that there are a few copper subscribers left on that line, and they replace the copper each time so the thieves keep coming back,” she said.

Telus, Tennant said, has discussed putting up signage telling thieves the lines are fibre-optic.

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She said the company has also expressed willingness to move the remaining copper customers to fibre, but that there has yet to be movement on either solution.

In a statement, Telus said it had crews out as quickly as possible and would have service restored to the area by Tuesday night.

“Canadian telecommunications providers are working with ISED and the Federal Government to pursue stricter penalties for copper thieves, and to combat thefts, we partner with local police and have invested in security cameras, specialized locks, and fencing,” Telus said.

The company further urged residents to call police or Crime Stoppers to report any suspicious activity.

Koch, meanwhile, said locals are losing their patience.

“We have these concerns about public safety so we would like Telus to step up and come up with a solution to remove the deterrent,” she said.

“They need to get rid of the copper.”

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