AT&T strikes back against copper theft in Phoenix with $5K reward offer

AT&T (NYSE: T) on Tuesday offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people stealing copper from its wireless cell sites in Phoenix.

A spokesman for the service provider reported that copper was stolen from local AT&T cell sites 20 times this year alone.

The immediate result of the copper theft was the loss of wireless voice and Internet service to customers in the Phoenix area, The Arizona Republic reported.

When theft occurs, in addition to incurring costs to reinstall wiring, the service provider must dispatch crews to repair damage to the cell sites, diverting manpower from other projects.

"AT&T takes this matter very seriously," said Jerry Fuentes, AT&T's Arizona and New Mexico state president. "These are not just attacks against AT&T's network, they are attacks on our wireless customers living in these communities who are often left isolated and unable to seek help or assistance during emergencies."

Phoenix, of course, is only one of several areas where the telco has seen an increase in copper theft.

It has run into similar issues on its wireline network in other areas including Alabama and Fresno, Calif. AT&T reported over 200 cases of copper theft during the first eight months of 2011, while more recently in Fresno the telco has been battling copper thieves that have resorted to knocking down area utility poles to steal copper.   

Some states such as West Virginia, an area served by Frontier Communications (Nasdaq: FTR) and Lumos Networks (Nasdaq: LMOS), have been working to develop a law to help curb the rate of copper theft and the impact it has on emergency communications for businesses and residents. State Sen. Herb Snyder (D-Jefferson) has proposed a bill that he believes will help to thwart copper theft.

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