Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Cable thefts behind Internet disruptions

The recent telecommunications service outage in Kampong Rimba, Kampong Ayer and the Edinburgh Bridge area which impacted services for over 2,000 fixed and mobile network subscribers were caused by damaged fibre cables and cable cuts due to theft.

According to the Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI), the nation has recorded an estimated total of 85 cable theft cases from January to December 2021 causing disruption to telecommunication services.

Stolen cables have no value, said the agency. However, it said the damage caused by it can severely disrupt the livelihoods of the communities who depend on stable Internet connectivity.

This includes educational institutions, organisations implementing Work from Home (WFH), as well as entrepreneurs relying on online platforms to run their businesses.

Unified National Networks Sdn Bhd (UNN) said it has put in a lot of effort and cost in restoring the cables and services to minimise interruption of telecommunications services but, recurrent damages may put a strain on their resources.

Under Section 49(1) of the Telecommunications Order 2001, any person who willfully removes, destroys or damages any installation or plant used for telecommunications shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding BND50,000, imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both.

Under Section 49(2), any person who, in the course of carrying out any earthworks, damages or suffers to be damaged any cable of a telecommunication system belonging to or under the management or control of a telecommunication system licensee shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding BND1 million, imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or both.

Additionally, Section 50 of the Telecommunications Order 2001, states that any person who removes, destroys or damages, whether wilfully, negligently, accidentally or otherwise, the installation or plant used for telecommunications shall be liable to pay compensation for the damage he has done.

Recent amendments under the Penal Code (Amendment) Order, 2021 were made to further protect such infrastructure from theft, mischief and other illegal activities causing damage and disruption to key services.

These offences are outlined under Sections 380B and 427B of the Penal Code (Amendment) Order, 2021, and carry a minimum punishment of three years’ imprisonment and four strokes of whipping, and a maximum punishment of 10 years’ imprisonment and 12 strokes of whipping.

Amendments to Sections 411 and 414 have also been made to criminalise receiving or retaining stolen property related to the provision of a key service or any component part of a key service as well as assisting in concealing, disposing or making away with stolen property related to the provision of a key service or any component part of a key service.

The punishment for these offences is imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years, a fine or both.

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