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Congress Proposes Metal Theft Prevention Act

Some in Congress have proposed a novel way to preserve the nation's telecommunications infrastructure: Keep it from being stolen.

While the economic stimulus package has provisions for billions of dollars in grant and tax break funds to help wire the nation, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), one of the legislators pushing for that broadband buildout, is also looking to protect the wires already out there.

Along with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), Lee Terry (R-NB) and fellow Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), she has intruduced a bill, the Metal Theft Prevention Act, that would make it easier for law enforcement to crack down on metal theft.

In what could be a further spur to the cable industry to replace aging copper wires with fiber, the tanking economy combined with  the rise in the price of metal, has fueled a rise in the theft of scrap metal, including copper pipes and metal from telecommunications networks, utility poles and even railroad signal wiring.

"We simply must ensure that the nation’s businesses, homes and infrastructure are no longer viewed as a treasure trove by desperate metal thieves,” said Hatch in announcing the bill, which is backed by, among others, the United States Telecommunications Association.

The bill would require better documentation of scrap metal transactions and would prohibit cash deals above $75.