Stiffer penalties proposed for damaging cables

An increase in underground cables being damaged by construction and road works has led to the possibility of stiffer penalties.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) proposed doubling the maximum fine for compoundable offences on negligent contractors to $10,000.

There were eight cable cuts during the first seven months of this year, all of which are still being investigated. This is more than the seven cases during the whole of last year, and four cases in 2014.

Such incidents disrupted Internet and telephony services of subscribers for hours, even as connectivity becomes increasingly critical to businesses and home users.

In a consultation paper put out yesterday, MCI said the damage is often caused by a failure by contractors, involved in the construction of new train lines, power cabling, water and sewage piping works, to do their homework in finding and isolating cables before starting work.

Most were found to have cut corners by not hiring a licensed telecom cable-detection worker to locate underground cables, a requirement since July 2000.

When contacted, Singtel and StarHub said they are still reviewing the details of the consultation paper. M1 said it is supportive of stronger measures to deter cable cuts due to human error.

However, ViewQwest chief executive Vignesa Moorthy said stiffer penalties cannot fully address the inconvenience Internet users go through.

"What we need is diversity so that customers can be rerouted to alternative networks when accidents happen," he said.

Irene Tham

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2016, with the headline 'Stiffer penalties proposed for damaging cables'. Print Edition | Subscribe