Theft of Service Affects You


Find the answers to questions our customers ask most often, such as:

Cable theft is illegal, and we appreciate your help

Cable theft is illegal under federal law, as well as states' laws. Cable theft also affects you because your picture quality could suffer and your Internet speed could be compromised, among other things.

Federal statutes provide for stiff penalties against people who steal cable services, including possible criminal prosecution. In addition, federal law provides cable companies with civil remedies, such as the opportunity to sue people who steal cable services for monetary damages and injunctive relief.

We take theft of services seriously, not only because thieves are taking services that they should be paying for, but also because theft impacts legitimate paying customers who demand and appreciate the quality products and services that we provide.

If you suspect someone is stealing cable services, you can make an anonymous and confidential report.

  • The quality of your picture, as well as your neighbors', can be affected when an individual makes an unauthorized connection to a cable line in your area.
  • Spectrum Internet speeds can be affected when theft of broadband occurs or if an individual makes an unauthorized connection to a cable line in your area.
  • It raises your cable bill because poor system performance requires maintenance service calls. Theft also damages the $65 billion investment that the cable industry has made since 1999 to upgrade its infrastructure.
  • We pay franchise fees to operate in your area. Those payments go directly into your local community and can be used for parks, schools or additional police or firemen. When people steal cable services, no franchise fees are paid on those services.
  • Signal leakage can affect aviation radio equipment as well as emergency service radio communications.
  • Theft of services affects honest and hardworking cable employees as well as those employed by programmers. The cable industry, as well as businesses providing services to the industry, accounts for more than 300,000 jobs. Each of these employees provides a valuable service to the cable industry and works hard so that you receive quality services.

Active theft occurs when someone takes active steps to receive services offered over a cable system without the authorization of the cable company. Contrary to the common understanding of cable theft - that it involves only the theft of cable television services - cable theft also includes broadband Internet abuse.

Uncapping of modems - The vast majority of broadband Internet users do not need more bandwidth than is provided by cable operators, but some dishonest users will hack into their modem and uncap their bandwidth limits. Individuals who uncap their modems and steal excessive bandwidth slow down their neighbors' transmission rates.

WiFi theft - WiFi theft occurs when someone installs a wireless network in a residence or business location and intentionally enables others to receive broadband service for free over their wireless network.

When using a wireless network, you should always secure your home network from unauthorized users. Unsecured wireless networks allow others to access your network and potentially see all of your personal files, allow potential criminals and terrorists to send untraceable communications or allow an individual to download illegal materials, such as copyrighted or obscene material that would lead back to the subscriber's modem.

Passive theft occurs when someone moves into a new residence or business facility and notices that the premise receives cable services without an account but nevertheless does not take any steps to become a subscriber or have the service disconnected.

It is illegal not only to steal cable services but also to assist others to steal cable services. In fact, federal law provides for criminal penalties and civil remedies against people who willfully assist others to steal cable services. Such assistance can take the form of distributing "pirate" cable television descrambling equipment, assisting others to make unauthorized connections to cable systems, promoting the free use of one's wireless broadband network, or assisting others to hack into their modems and uncap them. Federal statutes prohibit the assistance of theft of services offered over a cable system.

Subscription fraud occurs when an individual signs up for cable services, provides false information to receive services and has no intention of paying for those services. Subscription fraud is theft.

Primary theft of cable services involves instances in which someone does not subscribe to any cable services but makes (and/or maintains) an unauthorized connection to a cable company's cable system. This type of theft can occur when someone takes affirmative steps to connect his or her residence or business to the system or has someone make the connection for them. It can also involve surreptitiously using someone else's wireless network to gain access to the Internet or signing up for cable service using a false identity with no intention of paying for the service.

We have taken numerous steps to reduce cable theft in all its forms:

  • Conducting regular system audits to detect and disconnect unauthorized connections to systems by non-subscribers
  • Investigating and criminally or civilly prosecuting manufacturers, modifiers and distributors of illegal descrambling equipment
  • Investigating and criminally or civilly prosecuting commercial and residential users of such equipment
  • Cooperating with local, state and federal government officials in criminal prosecutions of cable theft and assistance in cable theft
  • Investing in digital equipment that contains sophisticated scrambling technology
  • Training customer service representatives to recognize, identify and report evidence of theft and abuse