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What Free Cable? 585

Posted by timothy
from the you-mean-I-have-a-television dept.
suckass writes: "Apparently if you've got a cable broadband connection from AT&T you can get free basic cable just by splitting the line that goes into your cable modem. News.com has a story about it here."
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What Free Cable?

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  • Not for long. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TomatoMan (93630) on Monday June 03, 2002 @03:59PM (#3633928) Homepage Journal
    One way to kill a freebie: post it on /.
    • by NanoGator (522640)
      I thought that the parent post [slashdot.org] made an interesting point. Now that it's extremely public how to do this, the cable companies will be forced to crack down on it.

      Thanks a lot to news.com for posting this story. Give AT&T more reason to tighten their grips!
      • The more AT&T tightens its grip, the more cable modems will slip through its fingers...
      • I don't know, but perhaps they cannot prevent people from doing this (other than inspecting their house). Some companies require the purchase of basic cable with a cable modem. My brother was able to get basic cable really cheap when he got a cable modem.
        • by Bonker (243350)
          Cox Communications in the Texas Panhandle, which I've written about before [slashdot.org] does this. You gotta have either basic analog cable or digital cable before they'll let you have a cable modem account.
        • I don't know, but perhaps they cannot prevent people from doing this (other than inspecting their house).

          All that's needed to block cable TV to cable-modem-only subscribers is a trap. If you had read the article, you would've known this.

          I used to live under the approach to one of the runways at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas. I pretty much had to subscribe to cable to get a decent signal; every time an airliner passed overhead, TV signals would bounce off of it and produce some really bad ghosting. At the time, a "broadcast-basic" plan was available that would get you the first 15 or so channels (including all local channels) for about $3 per month (this was back in '92 or '93). Since that was all I really wanted at the time, I signed up and put the rabbit ears away. A trap was installed in the line to block all of the other channels...tuning to them produced only static.

          You can't "steal" what the cable company doesn't make available to you in the first place.

        • I'm not 100% sure, but with Road Runner in Milwaukee at least, it's somewhere around 50 bucks a month if you don't already have cable, and 40 if you already do. I wish I knew how much the most basic of cable cost though. Maybe that's partly what the extra 10 bucks is for.
      • "Now that it's extremely public how to do this, the cable companies will be forced to crack down on it. "

        Right... because obviously Cox, AT&T, Comcast, et. al. were completely unaware until they read about it on news.com and Slashdot.
        • SHHHH, you're going to make /. users feel like their not a part of the secret 'hackier-than-thou' illuminati they so desire to be a part of.
        • "Right... because obviously Cox, AT&T, Comcast, et. al. were completely unaware until they read about it on news.com and Slashdot."

          Why solve a problem when it's not a problem? Now it's a problem. Now they'll have to solve it.
      • by Eil (82413)

        Uh, crack down on what exactly? They know damn well you're going to watch the basic cable that comes along with it. That's why the friggin service costs $50.

        Check with all the other posts in this article: most of their cable companies make you subscribe to basic service and then add like $20 on top of that for broadband. Either way, it works out to around $50. I subscribe to Comcast, and the only difference here is that they charge $50 for the boardband and then imply that basic cable service comes free with the deal.

        To wit: There's nothing sneaky going on, there's nothing the cable companies don't already know. You can't pirate that which is offered for free. It seems clear that C|net has written a very troll that the slashbots latched onto right away.

    • Re:Not for long. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wizbit (122290)
      One way to kill a freebie: post it on /.

      Sorry, but slashdot is doing what it always does - playing link-zilla to the mainstream press, which is doing ITS job by reporting consumer issues like this. This was on news.com, so that means it hit the Associated Press, and other mainstream press outlets will pick it up from the wires in the same fashion.

      But yeah, troll slashdot, and blame Malda and Co. for making it like 1% more widely known now.
    • The ONLY way to stop this is to install a filter between the Trunk, actually, the spigot(sp) (that's what your cable line plugs into) and the point of entry to your home...

      Doing this to ALL cable modem subscribers would be a pretty big task... I think you have time...

      Either way though... who want's "Basic" cable... I don't know about the U.S., but here in Canada, it is often reffered to as Trailer Vision... 22 channels... Yuck!
      • Re:Actually... (Score:4, Informative)

        by Afrosheen (42464) on Monday June 03, 2002 @11:08PM (#3636338)
        I installed cable modems all over Oklahoma and Texas for Cox and AT&T. Allow me to enlighten you.

        If I were to show up at a new house without cable, I would run a new line to the ped (short for pedestal, also known as a consumer interface or a million other terms). At the ped, if this person didn't already have cable tv and it wasn't part of my work order, I'd slap a 400 trap on the line. The 400 trap blocks everything but the cable modem's frequency range. Trust me, these things work.

        Since the pedestal is locked and requires one of three unavailable-to-the-public keys, you won't be pulling this filter anytime soon. Some of you may have access to a broken pedestal but when the cable guy shows up, he'll call it in and it'll get replaced.

        Some installers, in a rush, neglect this filter, but it's standard practice to put one on each house/apt/whatever when the customer doesn't already have cable. It's also common practice to split the incoming (master) line to the home and put upstream traps on half the split and connect all t.v. lines to this half of the split. The cable modem gets alot of power (anywhere from -10 to +13db) from this half of the split and the rest of the lines don't send rf interference upstream so the cable modem has a clean path upstream.

        I'm mentioning the split/upstream trap because some of you might go rooting around in your attic or somewhere poking around on filters and getting creative with the setup. Don't touch anything. If there's a 400 trap you don't have access to it anyway and if you pull the upstream trap you're setting your cable modem up for poor performance.

        So basically, I'd say you probably have a 20% chance of getting cable tv over your cablemodem line, and when you split it, you'll be dumping rf interference into your room because your crimping tools will inevitably be inferior, and your tv will be dumping upstream noise into your cable modem stream. You've been warned, proceed at your own risk.

    • by fmaxwell (249001) on Monday June 03, 2002 @04:42PM (#3634350) Homepage Journal
      The double standards on Slashdot are amazing. What's next? An article on how easy it is to shoplift at convenience stores while they take deliveries?

      This is not news. I always assumed that I'd be able to steal basic cable from my provider (Cox Communications) by simply hooking into the splitter on my outside wall. But I don't pay for basic cable so I did not do it.

      To people in the software industry who are stealing cable: don't get mad if you find out that the cable guy is pirating the software that your company sells.

      • by Gorbie (101704)
        People don't want to hear about how they are morally or ethically wrong about something. As far as they are concerned, that's your opinion and not based on fact or reality.

        I made a similar point regarding Napster yesterday. Someone went as far as comparing music theft on Napster to the life of Jesus Christ.

        Knocking...my...head...into...the...wall...

        Yesterday taught me one thing. If people can find a way in their brain to justify an act, they will change their perception from it being "wrong" to "well, why shouldn't I? Who am I REALLY hurting?"

    • Re:Not for long. (Score:3, Informative)

      by standards (461431)
      Not long at all for me - AT&T in Boston has a filter on my line. Cable modem works fine. For TV, no signal - filtered at the pole.

  • by KFury (19522) on Monday June 03, 2002 @04:01PM (#3633948) Homepage
    How long 'till /. is seen as a general circumvention device?
  • Not for long... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bytesmythe (58644)
    RoadRunner (provided by Time Warner in Austin, TX) requires you to purchase basic cable in addition to your cable Internet service. I'm sure AT&T will soon follow suit.

    • Around me (Time Warner Tampa, FL) they just charge you extra for the cable modem service if your not a cable subscriber. Of course its probably still cheaper than paying for both.
    • I assume this is just the service in Texas, I have RoadRunner in Indianapolis, no cable TV, and pay nothing extra because of it or for anything else.
    • RoadRunner (provided by Time Warner in Austin, TX) requires you to purchase basic cable in addition to your cable Internet service. I'm sure AT&T will soon follow suit.

      Not true in San Diego. In fact, they just recently knocked $5/month off of my roadrunner bill because I don't have cable TV. That was about the strangest letter I have ever received from a company.
      Then they called up to offer me a month of basic cable for free. I said sure what the hell. That was about 4 months ago and I'm still getting basic cable. No, I don't have my modem line split. I have 2 seperate cable lines.

    • RoadRunner (provided by Time Warner in Austin, TX) requires you to purchase basic cable in addition to your cable Internet service.

      Windows (provided by Microsoft in Redmond, WA) requires you to purchase a basic media player in addition to your operating system.

      I wonder why nobody has yet investigated local cable monopolies for illegal tying under the antitrust laws, especially in areas where the telephone monopoly does not offer DSL. Zathrus agrees with me [slashdot.org].

  • That explains it (Score:2, Interesting)

    by delphin42 (556929)
    This is probably why they wouldn't offer me a cable internet subscription without at least basic cable.
  • Easy to catch (Score:2, Informative)

    by crow (16139)
    This is easy for the cable companies to catch.

    First, they normally install a filter on such lines that blocks the analog signals, so in many cases, it won't work.

    Second, they can detect the signal leakage and see that you're receiving the signal. Considering that it's simply a matter of pointing an antena at your house from a van, and they have a list of who are Internet-only subscribers, it's not hard for them to check.

    Using unauthorized cable signals simply isn't worth the risk.
    • Re:Easy to catch (Score:5, Informative)

      by swb (14022) on Monday June 03, 2002 @04:08PM (#3634036)
      Considering that it's simply a matter of pointing an antena at your house from a van

      The tinfoil on my roof will protect me.

      But seriously, point an antenna at my house to find out if I'm wathching cable? I can see checking the neighborhood branch cable's impedence to see if its within the range of what they would expect from the number of subscribers they have, but even that's a ballpark figure (neighbor buys new TV, etc etc). Please explain how they can find anything by pointing an antenna at my house.

      A microphone maybe, when I curse them for shitty reception.
      • Re:Easy to catch (Score:5, Informative)

        by crow (16139) on Monday June 03, 2002 @04:19PM (#3634157) Homepage Journal
        I've heard that they check for signal leakage. If you have the wrong combination of splitters, signal amplifiers, and unshielded cables, then you're actually broadcasting the cable signal. Supposedly the cable company sends out vans to check that this leakage is within tollerance. In some cases, they will ask to replace some of your internal wiring so as to reduce leakage. Supposedly they are required by the FCC to keep the leakage under a certain level. (I read it on the Internet, so it must be true.)

        I've also heard that you can play the same game and use a high-gain antena to steal cable by capturing the leaking signal from your neighbor's house. I don't know how well that works, though in theory it is possible.

        It's a trivial matter to instead of looking for leakage beyond their regular tollerance level to look for any leakage whatsoever from non-subscribers.
        • Re:Easy to catch (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tftp (111690)
          If you have the wrong combination of splitters, signal amplifiers, and unshielded cables, then you're actually broadcasting the cable signal.

          Nonsense.

          You don't have any signal amplifiers, and what "unshielded cables" you are talking about? Coax cable is shielded.

          What one could possibly do is to use a reflectometer to measure where the signal reflects off of irregularities in the line. Unterminated coax connector would reflect everything; a connected TV would absorb everything and reflect nothing. However this is far from being reliable, and is very laborous, and depends on who installed the cable and when and how, and so on... It is much cheaper to just go on with your life and sell more cable packages to someone who pays, rather than chasing ghosts of people who don't want to pay and are skilled enough to get away with that.

          On a different note, there is nothing to watch on cable anyway. Why would anyone want one?

          • Re:Easy to catch (Score:2, Informative)

            by GigsVT (208848)
            People do unwittingly broadcast cable TV, by hooking up thier rooftop antenna to the same coax system in some way. Signal can also leak out to antennas through devices that are connected to antennas and cable, that don't have very good isolation.
            • People do unwittingly broadcast cable TV, by hooking up thier rooftop antenna to the same coax system in some way.

              Yes, that is a possibility. Though, why would they want to have air signals as well as cable? Usually cable carries all local air signals already, and if you are aiming at remote transmitters then you use antenna amplifier, and that isolates the antenna.

            • by swb (14022) on Monday June 03, 2002 @05:56PM (#3634818)
              People do unwittingly broadcast cable TV, by hooking up thier rooftop antenna to the same coax system in some way.

              In 1981 we got our first VCR and a camera (dad's business needed a major writeoff). Since I was in 8th grade, I was in charge of hooking it up. According to the documentation, you were absolutely not to hook up the RF Out of the VCR to your rooftop antenna -- it'd make you into your own TV station and the FCC would take away your bike, your baseball glove and make you eat unsweetened cereal for the rest of your life.

              Naturally the idea of a video camera and the chance to be our own TV station was too tempting. However, it didn't really work. We had the highest house in our neighborhood and a big antenna on the roof, but we couldn't get our home TV channel (playing lip-sync videos and slow-motion Lego crashes) to come in on any of the neighborhood TVs, all of which were broadcast based since we didn't have cable in Minneapolis.

              I guess its a good thing that I didn't know about amplifiers then...
        • That's why Radio Shack sells shielded coaxial cable :P

          Tim
      • Re:Easy to catch (Score:4, Interesting)

        by terrymr (316118) <terrymr@@@gmail...com> on Monday June 03, 2002 @04:30PM (#3634256)
        In England where you're required to have a TV License to watch TV they have vans that drive around trying to detect such leakage from unlicensed TVs.

        The also have handheld units for checking apartment buildings too.
      • Re:Easy to catch (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Bert Peers (120166) on Monday June 03, 2002 @05:00PM (#3634481) Homepage
        Well I'm not sure how but there must be some way to detect it -- since it happened to me. I didn't have cable TV since I don't have a TV, but after getting a TV card I decided to split and lo and behold, all channels were there. This was after 3 years or so of internet only. But sure enough, after about 6 months they install a filter, so my guess is that I made the split in such a crappy way that it introduced noise on the neighbor's signals (I live in an appartment), they complained, and voila. This is probably like messing with the telephone, you're not allowed to hook up selfmade electronics, but until someone complains about their reception, how will they know. I think the scenario of van-driving cable-polizei is a bit expensive for the very low percentage that doesn't own both -- and they don't just run lists of internet-only customers either since, like I said, it was ok for 3 years.


        What's kinda interesting though is that the area around 500 Mhz shows some leakage, maybe the filter is not perfect, or maybe they need to leave that area open because somehow internet hookup requires it -- but in any case that leakage leaves a few channels through. Didn't bother to drop the filter though since nothing interesting was ever on anyway :)


        (BTW this is all with UPC in Europe)

      • by Technician (215283) on Monday June 03, 2002 @06:42PM (#3635102)
        OK, since you asked, I used to work overseas and we shared a building with the cable folks. I got to know the techs. There is three very popular ways to detect theft of service. The most common is when checking the system for integrety, they find leakage of the signal. Some cable channels share the commercial airline communications frequencies. Picking up cable channels here is interference in violation of FCC rules (USA). Cable companies usualy use 100% shielded RG-6 cable drops to the house. A pirate drop added to a cable system is typicaly done with braided RG-59 which is only 95% shielded. The leakage usualy isn't enought to get a picture outside the home. The cable company does not even try to receive a picture. They use a sensitive narrow band receiver with a yagi antenna and look for leakage of the video, sound or cable FM radio carrier. Video carriers in the aircraft band is the most common leakage detection as they are picked up as part of FCC compliance checks. Midband cable channels A-I are typicaly channels 14-22 and are just above the FM radio band in the aircraft band. 121.5 MHZ is the aircraft emergency frequency. Leakage on that frequency is a big no-no.
        The second method used are using a TDR and measuring the distance to the end of the cable. A splitter tries to keep the impedance to the source to 75 ohm, but it isn't perfect and show up well on a TDR (Time Domain Reflectometry a type of in cable radar checking distance to splitters connections, ends, breaks etc.) A teltale sign of theft of service is the presence of a splitter in the TDR return and two or more diffrent distances to the terminations (6ft to cable modem and 35 foot to TV for instance).
        The Third method used is the least reliable. At the head end they run one of the channels through a time base corrector with a set drift (slightly off spec horizontal frequency). During a popular program (superbowl, HBO) the van sniffs for TV's exactly matching this offset sweep speed. The catch here a TV with a noisy sweep circuit from a subscriber can swamp a bootleg reciever's signature as it gets buried in the background noise level. Getting a match in sweep frequency from a TV in a house not subscribing to ESPN or HBO in suburbia can result in enough evedince for a search warrant for the illegal decoder. This is very hard to do in apartments, but not too difficult in surburban areas. They only catch those who happen to be tuned in at the time of the sweep. Those who time shift tape are not detected. The head end stuff is very expensive for this so this is a tool of larger cable companies and cable companies that hire the survey from a 3rd party.
        Leakage tests are the most common theft detection when done in conjunction with tap sweeps. TDR's are used in apartments because the temptation to run a wire to the next apartment is high. With the high density, the time to do a TDR audit has high payback results. Changes in cable response can be tied to duration of a tenant stay to make good cases of theft. The arguement of that was the way it was when I moved in doesn't work if they get two recorded TDR records that show the change after you moved in.
        As you can see, two of the 3 common detection methods do use an antenna on a van pointed at your house. They look for leakage of the raw cable signal and check the sweep frequency of your TV. TDR sweeps require a tempory outage of the signal and are not done with an antenna on a van.

        I hope this helps explain it.

    • Luckily this would be pretty hard with any apartment building, since the leakage would also be coming from all of the legitimate users.
    • Using unauthorized cable signals simply isn't worth the risk.

      Really? According to the article, this is what they do if they catch you.

      • Ask you to stop
      • If that doesn't work, disconnect you

      Oh boy, the risk/benefit ratio for that one isn't hard to figure out....



    • In Austin, Tx, the penalty for cable TV theft is a
      Class C Misdemeanor. That's the equivalent of a $50 ticket. The city govt. finally reduced it about two years ago because they were having a bitch of a time prosecuting people under whatever harsher class of crime it was. It was impossible to get a jury to go along with a prosecution of a crime to which there are no witnesses, fingerprints, and the following defenses are available:

      1. It was running when we moved in. I thought it was free.

      2. There are three people living in this house. Which one of us goes to jail? Who do you think hooked up the line? Do you have fingerprints?

      3. Isn't it possible one of your installer techs forgot to unhook the cable from the last time this house was subscribed?

      4. We were getting cable tv? We don't even have a tv in the house!

      Also, don't worry about some van driving by with an antennae. The real enforcement is a guy walking down the alley checking the connection points and tracing lines to homes. He compares what he finds to his clipboard, then when he finds someone in violation, he knocks on the door to offer them the opportunity to pay for a cable subscription so he won't turn them in. This fellow is paid by commission for the number of people he signs up. The best response to him is the afformentioned, "We don't have a tv set. It is the devil's appliance."
  • Grr! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zaffir (546764)
    I was told that any split in the line running to my modem would cause connection and interferrence problems (the installation guy ran a whole new drop from the pole outside my house). Wonder if that's really true?
    • a whole new drop from the pole outside my house

      Could be. Also, the existing cable was probably old enough to cause problems. The installer was probably pissed that he had to run new cable from their box into your house, and just ran it to the modem so he wouldn't have to run it to the rest of your jacks.
  • Free Cable (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Egonis (155154)
    Here in Canada, Rogers Cable forces you to subscribe to Basic Cable in order to get Broadband... probably for this exact reason!
  • ...the sound of wire cutters and crimpers was deafening!
  • by clinko (232501) on Monday June 03, 2002 @04:04PM (#3633985) Homepage Journal
    I have ATT cablemodem at my house. Here's how they get their money back.

    If you're not ordering cable, and only the cablemodem they charge you an extra 10 dollars.

    So... my total comes out to about $55 a month for cablemmodem. Plus tax...

    So... Total: $60+ a month for cablemodem
    • by mosch (204)
      There's no scam for comcast either.

      Basic cable modem for cable customers is $39.95/mo.
      Basic cable modem for non-cable customers is $54.95/mo
      Basic cable is $12.95/mo

      Thus, for me, it's actually cheaper to pay for cable, than to steal it.

    • Although if your employer is paying for your home cable modem, then you're getting basic cable scot-free. Whee!
  • Same with Time Warner, same with probably every single cable company.

    If you don't need a cable box to descramble it, then since the cable is hooked up into your place of residence, you get cable in its full unscrabled glory.

    Time Warner even gives you the splitter. :)

    Though it seems Time Warner in NYC has different "basic" packages. In Queens many many channels come in scramble free (though in messed up ordering), while in NYC one basically only gets over the air, tnt, tbs and cable access (though in a somewhat normal ordering)
  • I read a copy of the article posted on MSNBC [msnbc.com]. This doesn't just affect AT&T broadband: Cox Communications and Comcast Cable also get mentions. The reason you haven't heard about it through the news before, though, is that cable providers are only now figuring out how to circumvent this sort of "freebie."

    That said, I can't bring myself to feel sorry for all the people who will now have to pay for their cable TV service. In a word, wahh.

  • Apparently I'm the only one without cable that wanted cable Internet. The price for IP over cable is $10 more if you don't have basic cable. The cost of basic cable, here in S.E. New England, is $9.50. Voila!

    Has nobody else ever actually looked at the bill? The real trick is to not only plug your coax cable into your tuner card, but to remove the little inline filter which they describe to you as "the thing that keeps you from getting all the extended cable channels" when they screw it into your cable line.
  • Not Hard To Stop (Score:5, Informative)

    by jratcliffe (208809) on Monday June 03, 2002 @04:05PM (#3634000)
    Basically, if the cable operators want to stop this, it's pretty easy, but the way they're organized makes it more difficult. The frequencies used for cable modem downstreams are typically interspersed with the digital video channels, in the 550-860Mhz range. Cable modem upstream (along with telephony upstream and digital set top box return path, is almost always in the 5-42Mhz range (US values here, int'l mileage can and will vary). To provide cable modem, but no video, all they need to do is place a filter that will block 42-550Mhz. Not hard, but it requires the tech to be aware of both the video and data services the customer is getting. In reality, however, the field techs who handle video, and the ones focused on data, are two different orgs, with different trouble ticketing systems, etc, so the right hand often doesn't know what the left is doing, so getting the right filters in place can be a real pain.
  • Isn't much of a surprise.

    Put on your "think like a cable company" hat for a moment... as a straight up cable TV network without broadband, it only makes sense to install line equipment to filter premium channels. Regardless of whatever cable package the customer orders, its always going to contain basic channels as a minimum. Hence, cable companies don't normally have filters installed for basic channels.

    Ok, so lets throw in broadband. With the advent of internet access via cable, people who were previously without cable lines are now ordering cable for broadband only. Ok well, the internet access is running over a pre-existing cable network which probably wasn't designed with broadband in mind. Cable lines are coming installed, but carry basic channels at the very minimum because those signals aren't filtered.

    Some cable companies play 'hush-hush' about it, and others don't. The good companies will "throw in basic cable" at no extra charge... which isn't really of much value beyond a marketing gimmick, because they probably can't NOT deliver basic cable anyway.
  • by ocie (6659) on Monday June 03, 2002 @04:06PM (#3634015) Homepage
    And you can get a free newspaper by holding the door open after someone else buys one.
  • by emkman (467368) on Monday June 03, 2002 @04:09PM (#3634051)
    it doesn't take a master hacker to figure that one out.

    From page 5 of the Motorola/General Instruments SB3100D cable modem manual:
    "If you have a TV set attached to the cable outlet, you may need a 5-900 MHz splitter to use both the TV and the SB3100D."

    Thats about as plain and simple as it gets.
  • by design ? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Derek (1525) on Monday June 03, 2002 @04:09PM (#3634052) Journal
    After being a cable modem customer for six months, I got a letter from ATT saying that the free cable (TV) was simply part the offer. I called to confirm that I was not being charged for the cable TV and that it was free to use. They said yes, and I've been happily using ATT for cable modem access and cable TV signals for $45/month ever since.

    I assumed that this was by design. Maybe this "free cable TV" that they gave me was simply an artifact of getting the interenet access and, rather than discourage people from using it, ATT might have decided to be proactive an make the cable TV a free offer to their appreciated customers.

    -Derek
  • AT&T really wants me to get Digital Cable, but the problem is I don't have a lot of time to watch it. I rely on a home-brew PVR to catch the shows I want to watch. Until I can do this on Digital Cable, I can't put the money into it because I can't watch it.

    However, this may provide an opportunity to have both digital and analog cable. As long as I can still capture the stuff off the analog cable, Digital Cable may become something worth experimenting with. Heck, I may even find a way to wire a remote up to my computer to use it.

    Anybody think I'll have luck with having both analog and digital cable?

    *thinks it'd be heaps easier if AT&T would just have a PVR built to use the Digital Signal.*
  • by Grip3n (470031)
    I've known this for a long time now, didn't know it was hush-hush. If you live in Western Canada you can get the first Tier basic cable package by splitting off the cable line. Shaw doesn't have any remedies for this at all in the foreseeable future due to technical regions. So, once again, if you live in Western Canada with Shaw broadband access (80% of us) you can get free cable as well.
  • I have Comcast cable internet, and they throw in free extremely-basic cable tv service with it. I guess they do this in hopes that you will upgrade your cable tv service, which could turn into a nice $100+ Comcast bill for them. I'll stick with my directv, thank you.
  • video traps... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MenTaLguY (5483) on Monday June 03, 2002 @04:11PM (#3634085) Homepage
    This is why they install video traps on cable modem-only customers' lines. Sounds like somebody got lazy.
  • by SgtClueLs (54026) <sgtcluels@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Monday June 03, 2002 @04:12PM (#3634094)
    I recently moved, and had to get my cable modem activated at the new place. What they do now, is put on a filter to block "tv" access. It's this cigar looking filter that sits on the poll. So it looks like it's slowly getting phased out.

    One bad thing about this filter is that it really degrades your signal strength, and can cause your cable modem to desync sometimes. Hell, they even unfilter it if you are having alot of problems.
  • ...at least for Cox subscribers; basically, basic cable costs $10-month. 'net costs $40-month. BUT if you subscribe to basic cable, they give you a $10 discount, so 'net costs $30 + $10 for basic TV = $40.

    In this case, you would gain nothing by splitting the cable and canceling the TV contract, because you would just pay the difference for the 'net connection. I now understand why they chose this price arrangement in the first place. Now, with a descrambler box, things change...
  • When I was using a cable modem, they specifically said "You will get basic service with this whether you want it or not." I thought that is how everybody probably did it. I didn't realize some places tried to hide it from you...
  • AT&T's previous increase (about 1 year ago) from ~$30 to ~$38 basically said "Now, for this price increase you get basic cable".

    I think they realised this after seeing that they couldn't put a video trap on the same line as your cable modem. This happened to me when I discontinued their free-digital TV trial back in Jan 2000. I had to have them come out and remove the trap to get my internet to work again.

    So, I have cable going to both my cable modem and my TV-tuner card, and haven't felt like it was "free" at all, especially since I've been paying for it.
  • by jcsehak (559709) on Monday June 03, 2002 @04:16PM (#3634133) Homepage
    Everyone I know gets charged about $40/month for basic cable (except in CT, where it's a reasonable $10). Why is it so high? Are they still recouping costs from laying the actual cables? I dunno, they've been around for years, sometimes decades. And don't they make enough money from advertisers? Anyone else remember when cable first came out, they said your monthly fee was so you didn't have to watch commercials? So much for that. I wouldn't mind forking over $40/month if they gave me a good reason why it needed to be that high. Unfortunately, it seems like they're overcharging just because they can, and that's one of the best ways to promote piracy.
    • Monopoly (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cyberformer (257332) on Monday June 03, 2002 @06:05PM (#3634889)
      The money goes towards the cable company's profits, of course. (Or more accurately, towards mitigating the losses from the company's stupid investments during the bubble.) It's a monopoly, so they charge what they like.


      And the "free cable" described here isn't really piracy, as other posters have pointed out. The broadband customers are paying a bit more than those who just want basic cable, and the "free" cable is part of the deal. In fact, this is another reason why the basic bill is so much: The company wants the incremental cost of extra services (Net access, premium channels, etc.) to be so low compared to the $40 you're already paying that you will choose to buy them.

  • by yoink! (196362)
    Here in Quebec they've found a way to avoid charging for basic cable directly when you sign up for high-speed cable internet.

    Basically, if you are not a cable television subscriber but want cable internet service, they charge you an additional 10$ (well they claim that you get 10$ off if you are a cable subscriber) and thus they basically offset the cost of also providing basic cable television service to those who will splice the line and route it to their tvs as well. They've been doing this for years.
  • by papasui (567265) on Monday June 03, 2002 @04:18PM (#3634152) Homepage
    Basic cable is prevented from being stolen by a device called a "trap". Trapping basically blocks the RF on the line to prevent it from traveling to a house. Most cable these days are based on addressable or digital services but the FCC still requires the basic channels (NBC,CBS,FOX,etc) to be trapped and analog. In order for the modem to work in needs RF in the range of -15db to +15db on the forward signal and reverse signals of 35db to 55db with a signal to noise of 30db or more. If you trap off a house then your not going to get cable service period (unless you know how to safely remove it from the drop). Now what prevents you from just purchasing a cable modem and hooking it up and having it work is a method of authentication known as provisioning which enables the modem or cabledevice with that Mac id to work on the system in which case the modem is delivered a CM file that governs the modem to work at a specific speed. If you can fool the modem to downloading the CM file from some other source then you can change the speed it runs at. But don't be stupid and do this as bandwidth graphs are well monitored and you can bet that when someone is pulling 30mbit your cable network engineer is gonna notice the nice huge spike compared to everyone else on the node. But to make this short and sweet, its pretty hard to find out and prevent someone from stealing basic cable, which is why most cable companies charge a cable access fee around $10.00 if you don't have any cable service besides a modem.
    • Let me guess, you must be a cable monkey for a living, since you didn't mention frequency, bandwidth, notch filters, high-pass or low-pass filters. That's about normal cable monkey skill level.
  • Okay, let's figure this one out.

    First off, what's the difference in equipment necessary to "steal" basic cable from a cable modem connection? A splitter and some extra coax. Who pays for these? The consumer. What's the cost to the cable company? Zero.

    Second, who's losing out when someone "steals" basic cable? Is it the cable company? I suppose, if a significant percentage of people hooking into that service would otherwise choose to pay for basic cable. I personally feel that wouldn't be a large number; when you've got broadband, TV is less entertaining, at least to me.

    Are the networks losing money when people do this? A little, maybe. These people aren't being counted in ratings shares, so it means less ad revenue. These companies might be getting a small share of the revenue from the cable company if those connections were legitimate, but I believe they mostly get their money from the advertising.

    So what's the solution? How 'bout requiring people with cable modems to buy basic cable service, but at a price they won't object to? Say, an extra $10-15 per month? That's enough for the cable company to pay off any rebroadcast royalties, with no additional investment in equipment needed for them. Even people with satellite dishes might find the cable TV useful, as it would carry local channels their dishes wouldn't supply.

    • Are the networks losing money when people do this? A little, maybe. These people aren't being counted in ratings shares, so it means less ad revenue. These companies might be getting a small share of the revenue from the cable company if those connections were legitimate, but I believe they mostly get their money from the advertising.


      but advertisers are getting MORE for their money because they are paying for X impressions, but there are X+Y TV viewers.
  • Bait and switch (Score:5, Informative)

    by tenman (247215) <{moc.iausten} {ta} {gro.todhsals}> on Monday June 03, 2002 @04:23PM (#3634202) Journal
    I have had to deal with AT&T Broadband in Plano Texas for 2 years now. Twice they have done this bait and switch on me, and this time I figured it out.

    When I first moved here, I got the cable modem, and when I hooked my TV up to the outlet... it worked. I have extended basic channels. About a month after they put in my cable modem, a door-to-door guy came and offered a 30-day trial of the premium basic (as many channels as you can get without going digital). We tried the cable for about 20 days, and then I called them to cut it off (cause I'm a cheep ass). They can't and turned it ALL off. It took to weeks to get my cable modem back on, but they never turned back on the basic cable. I called to argue with them, because I thought that basic cable was included. They said that it wasn't included with the modem, and that I was lucky they didn't seek for me to pay them for the months that I was "stealing" cable.
    I ended up paying them to turn basic cable back on (which is what they want).

    I ended up moving to another apartment, and to do so I basically had to set up new service. Then again, they put the cable modem in and Boom! I had extended basic again. Like clockwork, a month after they put in the cable modem, they sent a door-to-door guy around to offer extended basic. To test my theory (I knew I wasn't going to be there long anyway) I signed up for the 30-day trial. The rest went as expected. 20 days later I called to have the free trial turned off. Off went the cable modem and the TV. Again I paid to have basic service turned back on.

    Once again, I moved to yet another apartment. Once again, the cable modem was installed, and magically, the extended basic was as well. 30 days later, I told the door-to-door day 'No Thanks', and I've had extended cable to this day.

    Word to the wise... the cable company wants you to get used to the cable, and then rip you for it later.
  • About 13 million Americans get a free ride as a result, compared with the more than 64.5 million paying cable subscribers, according to research firm The Carmel Group.

    You have to really wonder how did they come up with this number. Seriously. 13 million people are getting free cable? wtf....

    • yea, that is a totally insane number. Like 13 million people are going to go to radio shack and buy splitters, split their cables and hook up all their TVs. I'd bet it's more like 13 thousand, and that is still a little high.
  • Back home (central CA), if you had basic cable, you could just go buy a cable modem and hook it up, and bam, you had internet access. I don't know how or why they didnt have some kind of access control, but they didnt, and I took full advantage. :)

    (Recently, they figured it out, and now you do in fact have to pay for cable modem access.)

  • by jkc120 (104731)
    When I'm pinging 300ms to my GATEWAY on their internet service, I somehow don't feel bad for AT&T. If and when they start providing quality braodband, I'll care that people are stealing their TV service. After all, the internet people are paying them $50/mo for near-56k-like pings and constant speed problems in many areas.
  • Drawing on old-school methods to splice cable TV lines for unauthorized use

    What are the "new school" methods of doing this? This is the same way the cable monkeys from $CABLE_MONKEY_CENTRAL (Comcast for me) do it. Is there a new, better way to do this instead of getting a coax splitter, and connecting it to the cable?
  • I just tried it - wired it into my vcr (and switched it from antenna to cable mode) - I get a few scrambled channels around channel 72 - on channel 86 I get this nice spectrum analyzer display.

    But other then that no free tv. And I pay the extra 10$ for the cable modem.
  • It's scary to look at the reactions cable companies have to folks who are even SUSPECTED of stealing service in the manner the above article suggests.

    Slashdot Story: Get a Cable Modem...Go to Jail [slashdot.org]

    Google cached link to subject's web page [216.239.39.100]

    Same story, different folks... [wsrcc.com]
  • Back in the old days at the dawn of broadband time, the cable companies made pretty damn sure that if you had a cable modem, you also subscribed to cab;e TV [mit.edu].

    Anyone know what happened to that woman?

    BTW Amazon has Cable Modems from $49.99 [amazon.com]!

  • This isn't news... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by peterdaly (123554) <petedaly@ix.ne t c o m . com> on Monday June 03, 2002 @04:36PM (#3634299)
    This has been an industry practice for quite some time. Many companies don't install a filter. And frankly, when they do, I know people that just go out to the neighborhood junction box and take them off. They are installed consistantly enough for the local cable company to ever know, if they come back to do additional work. Hell, when cable modems first came out around here, the cable company ran out of filers, so most cable-modem only users got a full cable feed, if they thought enough to try a TV on the line.

    -Pete
  • free ingredients for blood sausages [kidlink.org].

    You can break the law, and do all kinds of stupid things that seem fun for a second. But then you realize, or someone else makes you realize, that there was a reason why it is not wanted behaviour. Stealing is stealing, even if you steal bytes or a free porn channel.
  • I was going to post something really witty about cable piracy costing the brodband industry billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs a year [slashdot.org], but I realized that there's a serious language phenomenon happening today centered on the word "piracy."

    I don't have a problem with the word itself, but the word has been raised recently to the lofty status of "buzzword." I'm waiting for the day when politicians start saying things like, "We MUST pass the CBDTPA or the pirates will have won," or "If we don't buy 50 more B-2 bombers than the pirates will have won."

    It is interesting to note two additional things: (1) The term "pirate" has not been used much. Mostly it's "consumers engaged in piracy" or "hackers." (2) The bad-guy noun being thrown around constantly is "terrorists."

    The coincidence of imagery is undeniable: technically, hijacking an airplane is an act of piracy. Pirates have the image coincident with that of a terrorist--marauding, violent, destructive, counter-culture and counter-establishment, lurking out there somewhere and vaguely unidentifiable until it's too late.

    Is this one of the reasons that "piracy" of digital music, video, and software has seemed to capture the imagination of mass media (and held it hostage, I might add)? It's just a word, but a word with imagery associated that plays conveniently to the current fears of the uneducated masses, who look to The Government for guidance and security.

    I predict that more and more mostly harmless activities that go against someone's agenda will be marked with the term "piracy." I can't wait until the day when Critical Mass [bapd.org] is referred to as being engaged in "traffic piracy," or environmental groups are refferred to as being engaged in "land piracy" by (for example) forcing certain areas not to be drilled for oil.

    Of course, this term can cut both ways. Senator Hollings is engaged in "freedom piracy" and Aschroft and the FBI are engaged in "privacy piracy" (say that three times fast). Wondrous will be the day when we can label large campaign contributors as "vote pirates" engaged in "election piracy."

  • Why now? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hether (101201) on Monday June 03, 2002 @04:59PM (#3634472)
    So what is the point in publishing this story now? I can't believe that the media just found out. It's something most of us have known about for years. We need to figure out what their purpose is in letting more people know about this. Is it just another attempt to point out how many people are stealing? Is it to encourage more people to do it and pull one over on At&T since they're raising prices? Was it a slow news day and they were grasping for content? There's got to be a reason this story was published now. Any ideas?
  • by Cardhore (216574) on Monday June 03, 2002 @05:55PM (#3634813) Homepage Journal
    Did you know that you can get free satellite TV too!?!? Those satellites they use for TV actually beam their signals at every house! No lie! All you need is a little dish (steal someone's--people actually leave those things outside at night!) and a computer!!!

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