In many less developed nations, mobile telephony had a leg up on fixed-line systems as it is far easier for operators to guard their base station sites than to try to stop people from digging up their wiring and sell it for scrap. However, with copper prices soaring on heavy demand from China, people in the first world are getting in on the act, too -- with some disastrous consequences. Two guys in Masschusetts were fatally electrocuted when they tried to steal some copper wire from an unoccupied electric plant, while earlier, two people in Arkansas met a similar fate when they tried to steal wire from utility poles. Telecom operators may not care so much about people dying, but the problem of theft remains, so they're looking at other solutions. For instance, one Chinese operator says it will use ethernet in rural areas, rather than copper wiring, to avoid the problem. Meanwhile, some US politicians are trying to pass new laws to crack down on scrap metal theft, and wiring theft in particular. But if people are ignoring the risks posed by attempting to steal copper from power lines and plants, it seems rather unlikely the prospect of more jail time will act as much of a deterrent.
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