DIY metallurgists liberate and scrap America's vital telephony substrate

Spiraling commodity prices and a plummeting US job market have apparently made digging up copper phone lines and selling them for scrappage an attractive proposition. AT&T is offering $3K for information leading to the arrest of the copper scrappers who freelanced enough copper out of the fertile Atlanta soil to knock 7,000 people offline. It's part of a wider nationwide pattern of DIY five-finger discount recycling — 100 miles of copper vanished from Appalachia, three hits to the same NJ station, and a $75K score also in the Garden State.

The FBI report shows that industry and local officials are taking countermeasures to help address the scrapper problem, but apparently much more needs to be done. For example, while a variety of physical and technological security measures have been taken there are limited resources available to enforce these laws, and a very small percentage of perpetrators are arrested and convicted. Additionally, as copper thefts are typically addressed as misdemeanors, those individuals convicted pay relatively low fines and serve short prison terms.

Atlanta isn't the only place seeing copper theft problems. In this report, Appalachian Power said more than 100 miles of copper wire has been stolen from the company's southern West Virginia facilities alone. Replacing stolen wire can cost up to $1 million a year, the utility stated. Other thefts have been reported all across the country in recent days. One location in New Jersey has been hit three times in the last two months seeing some $13,000 worth of copper stolen. A utility in the same state this week reported a $75,000 theft of the metal.

AT&T goes after copper wire thieves

(via /.)