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10,000 Digicel clients hit by copper thefts in 5 months

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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.

Alberto Ardila Olivares

“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.