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Rat Attack Causes Broadband Outage In Scotland 85

Posted by samzenpus
from the dirty-rat dept.
judgecorp writes "Virgin Media's broadband services in parts of Scotland have been taken down by rats biting through the fibre optic cables. It's unusual to have an operator attribute an outage to such a cause, but we would bet it has happened before, given the fibres are carried in underground ducts."
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Rat Attack Causes Broadband Outage In Scotland

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  • by ToasterTester (95180) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @11:10PM (#37710208)

    Fibre cables are pretty new for rats to be attracted to. They are a problem for some old cables because animal fat was used in the insulation. They smell the animal fat and chow down.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      Rats and other rodents will chew on anything soft enough to chew on.

      Many such cables will come with protective layers because of that. Underseas cables (different scale, same idea) have a protective metal sheet in the insulation, and often bite marks of sharks or other big stuff have been found on cables.

      The thing that surprised me at first is that there was apparently no redundancy. Though upon reading TFA it seems about 100 customers were affected, so the outage is not that big, and the area affected ca

      • "Chew on anything" (Score:5, Informative)

        by DesScorp (410532) <<DesScorp> <at> <Gmail.com>> on Friday October 14, 2011 @12:03AM (#37710484) Homepage Journal

        Rats and other rodents will chew on anything soft enough to chew on.

        Yes they will. I remember reading back in college about German armor divisions having lots of trouble on the eastern front due to rats and mice. In very cold conditions, the Wehrmacht would park their tanks in barns with lots of hay in an attempt to keep them from freezing up, and rodents would get into them and chew the wiring up. When I was younger, I had a couple of pet rats, and learned that they'll chew on pretty much anything. There's a hard, rock-like substance that you buy in pet stores for them, and they chew on it out of natural instinct to keep their teeth worn down. Rodent teeth never stop growing, so if they don't chew on something, their teeth will get too long and injure them.

        • by wvmarle (1070040)
          Too long teeth and they can not eat anymore. As they can not open their mouth far enough to create space in between their teeth... I used to keep guinea pigs, they would eat their cage (the wooden part). Failing that, they would gnaw on the metal bars.
          • by Inda (580031)
            My guinea pigs trained the whole family that way. Gnaw on the metal bars and they got fed.

            They trained us well.

            Squeek, squeek, squeek.
        • Even rats are not the worst. I used to keep degus. They need to be kept in a steel cage because most other materials they will chew through. Anything put into the cage that was not solid ceramic or steel would be destroyed. This included the wooden level platforms built into the cage.

          The stone you are referring to is a mineral stone, which serves two purposes: it is strong enough that they can gnaw on it for some time before wearing it down, and its composition contains lots of essential minerals that a
      • by neokushan (932374)

        Just FYI, far more than 100 people were affected by this. I don't know where that number came from, but it's probably more like 100 calls about it came in and were booked against accounts, rather than the actual number of people affected. Internally, it was treated as an MSO (Major System Outage), which means it was affecting at least 2000 people.

        • TFA says it affected "the Kirkcaldy, Glenrothes and Leven areas" which I'd guess covers about half of the urban population of Fife (Dunfermline being the only other town of any notable size). Virgin Media's also got a decent market share (22% nationally according to Wikipedia) This is not the most populous are of the UK by any means but certainly way over 100 people were affected and I could easily believe that multiple thousands of people were cut off.
      • Currently being on Virgin Media I am surprised that the users noticed a breakdows in the data transmission - such is the piss-poor speed offered by VM. Latency is a huge problem unless you opt for one of their premium packages - funny eh?
        • I'm no longer a VM customer (not available in my part of Scotland for reasons unrelated to rodents), but you'd think, given that a lot of their recent marketing campaigns have focused on superior realised speeds, that good speed would be one of their USPs.
          • by vakuona (788200)

            And they are the fastest, and most consistent. I live in a flat (apartment for our American friends) that doesn't have a virgin cable connection, and I miss the predictability of the connection. I had the top of the line collection, and besides the few times they had issues in the neighbourhood, their connection, whenever it was working, was far superior to the ADSL that is more generally available.

            Now BT is competing a bit more with their fibre optic connection, so it may be that BT may be as quick and mor

    • by luisdom (560067)

      I work in a car plant, and we still discuss if it is better to have poison in electrical cabinets or not. We suspect they are attracted by the f***ing thing but still have the time to eat the wiring anyway.
      It is a very common breakdown, normally easy to diagnose (by the barbecue smell)

  • Internet links get chewed up by rodents on an infrequent basis... at my University it happens about once a year and knocks out a building or two. Last year a rodent chewed an underground power main and, according to the power techs, basically vaporized. Too bad it took out power for a quarter of our campus for half a day.
  • Isn't this what armored cable is made for?
  • I work for a telecom company with thousands of miles of fiber and you'd be surprised how 'tasty' some cable seems to be to other rodents like squirrels. While not common, a year going by without squirrel damage would seem very odd.

    Of course, drunk hunters do far more damage during hunting season. You'd think the cable had little bulls-eyes printed on the sheathing...

    • by mrbester (200927)
      There's so many of them that we need to thin out their numbers!
    • by Shatrat (855151)
      A year? We rarely have a month go by without a rodent chew. Squirrels on the aerial, rats in the underground conduit. Caterpillar and Kenworth chews are even more common.
      I remember a year or two ago we had a rat chew in Chicago that took down wireless service for a customer everyone here would recognize for 24+ hours.
  • Squirrels are a very common nuisance for folks building big holiday displays. They'll gnaw straight through the wires, bite off bulbs, and pull down strings. That it's a problem for other kinds of cables doesn't surprise me.
  • down side of the cloud fiber cuts can cut you off.

  • by Ankh (19084) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @11:44PM (#37710410) Homepage

    We had an Internet outage in our house when rats got into the walls and chewed through the cables. They just like eating plastic, and also will chew through walls (and cables) to get to the other side.

    It's no surprise that the most effective rat poison (I discovered after extensive research!) was developed by a phone company - Bell Labs.

    It was also interesting to me that the Wikipedia article on rat poison appears to recommend the most widely used *ineffective* rat poison, which also made by a large company..., and lists some stupid problems with the competition.

    The most effective, if you are wondering, is based on Vitamin D, and has the advantages that (1) the rats eat a fatal dose on the first feeding, and hence do not get a chance to learn to avoid it; (2) pregnant rats eating the poison do not give birth to rats that are immune to it, (3) since vitamin D isn't really a poison as such, if another animal eats the rat, there's very little risk of secondary poisoning.

    So we solved our own rat problem, but I had to do a lot of learning about rats and rat poison on the way!

    • by mirix (1649853)

      Hope you like the stink of dead rodents in your walls...

      Poison is just a band-aid, fix however they are getting into the house.

      I thought warfarin was still #1 for what it's worth... As far as I recall rodenticide has to be slow acting, else the neighbours will notice something is awry when the victim drops dead.

      • by xenobyte (446878)

        Hope you like the stink of dead rodents in your walls...

        Poison is just a band-aid, fix however they are getting into the house.

        Correct... and not. If a rat eats something that kills him on the spot, you'll have dead robents everywhere (near where you put the poison), but if you use something like a vitamin overdose, the stricken rat will have time to return to the group (rats are social animals that prefer the company of others when they're not feeling well) and die there. The other rats will then most likely eat the dead one so it won't get a chance to stink.

        But yes, it's far smarter to prevent them getting in to begin with. That'

        • by Inda (580031)
          "if your house is inaccessible and the neighbors isn't, guess what happens"

          This is what happening in my terraced house.

          The neighbour were actually hanging meat in his loft, just as his family had done in Poland for years.

          And this is the main thing about rats - they'll only live somewhere where there's food. The pest controller went one stage further and told me rats are lazy too. They only live in the loft if there is food, they won't travel up and down for it, if the food is on ground level, that's where t
      • by Ankh (19084)

        Hope you like the stink of dead rodents in your walls...

        That's a problem with pretty much any of the poisons, yes.

        Poison is just a band-aid, fix however they are getting into the house.

        We live in an old wooden farmhouse; it's not really feasible to stop rodents from getting in altogether - just as we have a sump pump in the basement for the water that gets in, standard operating procedure here in rural Ontario. We have, however, added .2 inch steel wire mesh under the deck, to a depth of two feet, which helped.

        I thought warfarin was still #1 for what it's worth... As far as I recall rodenticide has to be slow acting, else the neighbours will notice something is awry when the victim drops dead.

        I didn't say the Vitamin D was fast, I said the rats eat a lethal dose at one sitting. When rats return to the nest the al

    • by dwreid (966865)
      and yet, after going on and on about how good this product is, you never mention WHAT it is.
      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        And if he had mentioned it, a million slashtards would have screamed "SHILL!" There's no winning this one.
    • by julesh (229690)

      It was also interesting to me that the Wikipedia article on rat poison appears to recommend the most widely used *ineffective* rat poison, which also made by a large company..., and lists some stupid problems with the competition.

      As I read it, the article in question doesn't appear to recommend anything. It just lists available products along with details of the operation of each.

      The most effective, if you are wondering, is based on Vitamin D

      The most effective rat poisons contain at least three different types of poison to ensure that they always work. Vitamin D3 is usually among them, yes.

      and has the advantages that (1) the rats eat a fatal dose on the first feeding, and hence do not get a chance to learn to avoid it

      This isn't as much of an advantage as you might think. Rats are known to watch other rats eat, and then avoid the food they have eaten if they later die. Poisons that require multiple doses avoid this prob

      • This is often quoted by manufacturers as an advantage of these poisons, but it turns out not to be true. The level of vitamin D contained in a typical application of these poisons is more than enough to be fatal to small mammals, e.g. cats and dogs, or even unpleasant for humans.

        Damn, and I was just about to eat that dead rat I found.

      • > ...or even unpleasant for humans.

        The only secondary poisoning most people are concerned about is that of children. It isn't hard to place poison so that dogs can't get at it, and cats are rarely interested. It also helps to be a bit stingy with the stuff: it only takes a few grams to kill a rat.

    • It was also interesting to me that the Wikipedia article on rat poison appears to recommend the most widely used *ineffective* rat poison, which also made by a large company..., and lists some stupid problems with the competition.

      Hah you can probably use wikiscanner to trace the edit back to their office.

      I find that a lot of articles on tools have been similarly commercialized (I remember one was about hose clamps and was totally pimping some proprietary hose clamp, even going so far as to use little (TM)s, it was crazy).

  • Could completely cripple the modern world.

    This was just a test. We don't know when they'll strike in earnest.

  • I know a thing or two about these guys. Here is my story of rats attack.

    Around 2005, I got a message on my cell phone at night, from a monitoring server, that one of the app servers is down. I tried to login remotely without success, ping didn't go through. I dragged myself up and went to the server room. A colleague who received the same message got there at the same time. From the terminal, we saw that the server was running just fine. We checked the network cable, it was cut, and looked like it's bitte

  • All the news lately that makes a dystopian future far more likely than any nirvana like stasis of hi-tech utopia being achieved.

    Aside from rodent type rats eating away at civilization's infrastructure, there is a long history, as recent as last week (just google "bridge stolen") of homo sapiens type rats gnawing away at the same.

    Nothing new here...
  • Maybe the telco's could put some of the spicy curry around their cables -- the same recipe that put 10 Scots in the hospital in a recent "hottest curry eating contest".

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Maybe the telco's could put some of the spicy curry around their cables -- the same recipe that put 10 Scots in the hospital in a recent "hottest curry eating contest".

      One of my dogs kept chewing on some grommets on an outdoor metal grating, so we thought to put some hot chili sauce on the grommets. End result was the grommet was there nice and clean, chili sauce licked off. Then the next time we looked the grommet was gone again.

      I think they ended up liking spicy food, or capsaicin doesn't seem to afflict

      • by Maow (620678)

        Interesting. My first though was that the dog was desperate to get through gate.

        But then I remembered seeing a TV story this week about a stray dog in Athens who attends all the protests / riots, barks at police, and didn't seem to mind tear gas or getting pepper-sprayed in the face ... at all.

        One would expect that canines would be extra hyper sensitive to such irritants, but I think you might well be right: no effect.

        Interesting biology / physiology experiments there for someone. But how to do it ethical

        • by CSMoran (1577071)

          One would expect that canines would be extra hyper sensitive to such irritants, but I think you might well be right: no effect.

          Interesting biology / physiology experiments there for someone. But how to do it ethically?

          Do it with convicted dogs only.

  • ugh... forget it. I hate rats.
  • At the ISP where I work one of our ticketing systems actually has Rodents as a standard cause code.

  • on a high fibre diet.

  • Optical cables have an outer kevlar layer, how can a rodent chew through that?

  • Um... sorry, that's all I got.

  • A kitty attack fix the problem at morning.
  • I worked on the installation of the telecommunications network for a new airport in Asia several years ago. The airport was built on land that had been a palm oil plantation so there were lots of rats until traps brought the population down. It happened rather frequently that rats would chew through our fibers and it was a major irritant, but the biggest problem they caused was the fact that cobras were attracted by the rats. ----- RN
  • working in broadband i can personally test first hand that mice / rats cause these types of outages in the system i work in squirrels are particularly problematic because of how close the Arial plant is to trees... its just something that has to be dealt with with distribution systems...
  • by koan (80826)

    The correct term is "Rodent American".

  • Did it eat the carrier pigeons, or just bite through the taut string?

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