Arson Damages Part Of Openreach Network In Kent

Openreach’s network has been badly damaged by an arson attempt in Kent, that impacted thousands of customers.

Openreach confirmed the malicious damage in Staplehurst, Kent, which caused approximately 7,400 customer premises to lose their phone and broadband service.

This is not the first time that the UK’s communication networks have been hit by arson attacks, after multiple mobile phone masts were targetted over misguided 5G fears during the pandemic.

Arson attack on Openreach network in Kent

Arson attacks

Last August a conspiracy theorist David Patterson in the north east admitted arson after he climbed over a fence into a locked compound at Wardley Garage in Gateshead, near the South Tyneside border, and set fire to a BT phone mast on the roof.

Patterson caused between £100,000 and £150,000 damage to the mast, which was destroyed, as well as causing around £15,000 damage to the garage itself.

A court found he was suffering from ‘severe mental health problems’ and he was given a suspended two year prison sentence at Newcastle Crown Court in October 2021. Patterson was also ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work, after the court was told he was not in a position to pay compensation to BT.

And frustratingly, BT is once again facing arson damage caused by mindless criminal action.

“There was a suspected arson attack on our network in Staplehurst late on Tuesday evening, leaving around 7,400 without phone and broadband services,” said Pete Stewart, UK operations director for Openreach. “Engineers are working hard to resolve the situation, but it is a complex fix and may take several days.

“Attacks on our equipment are deeply concerning, especially considering that so many people rely on their broadband for work, study, to get medical support and stay connected with loved ones,” said Stewart.

“We know how frustrating this must be for those affected and we’ll be doing what we can to prioritise fixes for vulnerable customers and key local services,” said Stewart. “We’d ask that anyone experiencing any disruption to report it to their service provider who will then inform us.”

Now fixed

Openreach’s security team is working with the relevant authorities to make sure that this incident is fully investigated and those responsible are held to account.

Openreach engineers worked throughout the night and by Thursday afternoon they had repaired and replaced cables damaged by the fire at Sutton Valance.

Arson attack on Openreach network in Kent

Openreach said that 90 percent of the 7,400 homes and businesses affected by the damage are now back online; and that everyone should be reconnected Thursday afternoon.

The incident affected properties in Headcorn, Sutton Valance, Marden, Staplehurst and Goudhurst.

Openreach thanked everyone affected for their patience and paid tribute to its engineers for their herculean efforts to get everyone back online.

Engineer stabbed

Not only is Openreach having to confront mindless acts of malicious damage such as this, but its engineers can also be at risk.

In November 2020, the chief executive of Openreach, Clive Selley, revealed the appalling levels of violence its engineers suffered, during the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic.

He revealed an Openreach engineer was left with five stab wounds in an attack earlier in 2020.

BT Open Reach Rebrand. London. Picture Steve O’Connell 21-06-17

The engineer was in his forties, and the motives behind the attack remain unclear, although it came during the height of abuse of telecom workers over false 5G conspiracy theories.

The engineer was reportedly later discharged from hospital.

Selley added that engineers have faced violence and intimidation as they went about doing their jobs, trying to keep the UK communication channels open and functioning during the first Covid-19 lockdown.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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