Rat lays Virgin low in Scotland

You might think you've heard every excuse in the book for service outages - especially if you're a BlackBerry customer at the moment - but here's a new one on us: your service has been downed by a rat.

Customers in Kirkcaldy and surrounding areas of Scotland were given that exact story by Virgin Media, who blame rodents for cable damage that has resulted in patchy access to broadband, television, and telephone services.

The somewhat unlikely tale was confirmed by a Virgin spokesperson, who responded to local paper Fife Today's enquiries with an admission that its much-vaunted next-generation fibre-optic network had been used as a rodent chew-toy.

"We’re aware that a number of customers in the Kirkcaldy, Glenrothes and Leven areas may have experienced intermittent loss of their Virgin Media services from Monday morning until Tuesday evening," a spokesperson confirmed. "The loss of service was due to rodent damage to some underground cabling.

"On Monday morning our engineers were on site as soon as possible and worked at the highest priority to repair the damage, with service restored early evening on Monday. Further damage was incurred on Tuesday afternoon and our engineers returned to repair the damage.

"We’ve now put additional measures in place to prevent further damage to our cables to avoid further disruption for our customers," the spokesperson added - presumably referring to rat traps and poison, rather than signs imploring the local rodent population not to gnaw the cables.

Rat damage was once common in communications cabling, where animal by-products were often used in the production of insulation - resulting in an all-too tempting smell for eaters of carrion. With modern fibre-optic cabling comprising little more than glass, plastic and some form of fabric, it's hard to imagine what attracted the rats to the cabling in the first place.

Services are now restored, the company has confirmed.