MAJORITY State-owned Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) yesterday condemned “rogue scrap iron dealers” for fuelling the illegal theft of copper from the company’s overhead line network.
In a statement, TSTT said while copper theft is not a new phenomenon, there has been a significant increase in the vandalism of TSTT’s copper plant and the theft of copper cables since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“TSTT, in no uncertain terms, condemns this criminal activity and the actions of rogue scrap iron dealers who fuel the illicit trade by purchasing the stolen material,” the company said.
It warned members of the public that copper theft attracts severe penalties under the Telecommunications Act.
“By virtue of Section 69 (1) of the Act, a person who maliciously damages, removes, or destroys facility works or other installation of a public network or a public telecommunications service commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of up to $250,000 and to imprisonment of up to five years,” TSTT said.
It also noted that the haphazard, unauthorised removal of copper cables posed a tremendous risk to the vandals and others, as it endangers the lives of those directly involved, compromises the safety of residents and motorists, and contributes to often widespread service outages.
“While TSTT has made considerable progress transitioning customers to wireless and fibre alternatives, the company still has active customers who rely on copper for much-needed service,” the company said.
It added that when vandals damage non-copper cables in the process, it adversely affects TSTT’s customers and other utility providers as well.
The telecommunications provider said it has enjoyed a long-standing, fruitful relationship with Trinidad and Tobago Scrap Iron Dealers Association. It said, therefore, that the sentiments strongly expressed by the association’s president at a May 3, 2022, press conference were nothing short of disappointing.
“TSTT is committed to following the company’s established procurement and disposal practices and will not, under any circumstances, be strong-armed into disregarding its due diligence requirements to satisfy another party’s agenda,” the company said.
The company said the risk inherent in the copper removal process must not be trivialised.
“The safe and proper removal of copper cables must be performed by competent, certified professionals with knowledge of voltage clearances, experience working near high tension and lashing wires, and access to approved tools and equipment,” TSTT said.
Source Trinidad Express