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Comcast in Court, AT&T Gets Greedy

chrisd posted more than 12 years ago | from the coaxial-cable-customer-craziness dept.

News 251

raindr writes "The Detroit News has this article on how comcast is going after people with modified Cable TV boxes.These fines (170k) seem a bit much to me." They apparantly send out a "bullet" to deactivate modded boxes. In other coax news,Shynedog writes "Boston.com is running a story about AT&T broadband users in the Northeast who are complaining about the unfair price hike that has been imposed on subscribers who own their own modems. It the wake of recent customer complaints, AT&T has started offering coupons to offset the monthly increase, but only for the next six months."

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251 comments

better be good (-1, Offtopic)

freddej (122902) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671664)

Well, you havent seen nothing yet I'll say

CLAIMED! (-1)

on by (572414) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671673)

thank you!

This Article is a Winner! (-1)

Tubcat (561572) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671665)

Congrats trolls! This is today's official troll article of the day. Please concentrate on making fun of lunix and slashdot's janitors here.

FP, (Clit)

Quiz: Who is this enemy of Cheap Software? (-1)

on by (572414) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671666)

OPEN SOURCE MISCONCEPTIONS By Serial Troller Myth: Open Source is writte
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Created with UAG v0.95 (c)on by 2002 [slashdot.org]

I like ATT (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3671667)

I have stock in them, and without it, I would not be able to attend college ;) Let them do what they will!

Re:I like ATT - Troll Alert (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3671684)

What a Troll.

yahoo finance [yahoo.com] says that the dividend yield of AT&T is 1.32, so you only get 1.32% of your cash every year. There is _no_way_ that this can affect your schooling. If you're short of cash, you'll get more from an interest bearing account, and if you're really short of cash, use the capital instead.

What's that smell? Ditchwater?

maybe if they go through with this... (0, Offtopic)

packeteer (566398) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671670)

...they might be able to scare a good amount of would be theaves off...

..maybe itll just trample our rights...

scare who??? (-1)

on by (572414) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671679)

Main Entry: thief
Pronunciation: 'thEf
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural thieves /'thEvz/
Etymology: Middle English theef, from Old English thEof; akin to Old High German diob thief
Date: before 12th century
: one that steals especially stealthily or secretly; also : one who commits theft or larceny

Re:maybe if they go through with this... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3671712)

Our rights?

Our rights does not include being common thiefs
and steal services that we have not paid for such
as cable tv...

Hrrm... (1, Informative)

ObitMan (550793) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671677)

1. Steal
2. Get caught
3. Get punished

Yeah sounds about right.

i read somewhere... (1)

packeteer (566398) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671678)

...the cable companies claim that these illegal boxes actually degrade the quality for all becuase it introduces resistance to the line for everyone else making all these "bad guys" into "your enemy too" type targets... it sick

becuase & it (-1)

on by (572414) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671703)

because it introduces & it's sick...

thank you.

The cathedral and the bazaar (-1)

Big Dogs Cock (539391) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671685)

Great analogy. Put the effort and the organisation in, and you can have something as inspiring and well crafted as a catherdral. People come from all over the world to admire Notre Dame*, St. Pauls etc. Allow anyone to contribute - as in the bazaar model - and you end up with some scummy wog market.

What would you choose? Is it the pinnacle of architecture or flies, food poisoning and fake Rolexes?

Just forget about tv, its not worth it (1, Insightful)

GoatPigSheep (525460) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671686)

I'd recommend anyone who is offended by the tactics of cable companies to simply quit subscribing to cable at all.

When we watch tv we are wasting time when we could be doing something productive, and if you want good entertainment you can always rent a movie. Tv is full of ads, many of which are from the large, rich, dmca loving companies that we all dispise. Why would anyone want to PAY to watch disney, or NBC, or warner? By doing that we are simply funding the companies that are destroying all our freedom. Tv is also controlled by americans, and I've seen my local canadian television go downhill when faced against the behemoth of american corporate television. Kids are being brainwashed and having their brains rot from imported japanese tv such as pokemon, which are basically hallucinogenic sessions.

I say pull the cable plug out for good, we no longer need to be mindless zombies of the media.

Re:Just forget about tv, its not worth it (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671724)

Another slashdot reader posts without reading the article...

The article was about cablemodem internet access, not cable TV.

Re:Just forget about tv, its not worth it (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3671729)

Argh, I wish I could delete my post. I fell for a troll, and a bad one. My bad.

DNS-and-BIND

Re:Just forget about tv, its not worth it (-1)

ObitMan (550793) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671730)

Another dumb shit fails to comprehend the articles then jumps all over some preachy bastard.
The comcast story in the Detroit News article was about Cable TV boxes.

Re:Just forget about tv, its not worth it (1)

GoatPigSheep (525460) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671734)

the first article was about cable tv, I was commenting on cable tv companies, so it's relevant.

Re:Just forget about tv, its not worth it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3671737)

Are you talking about yourself ? Let me cite the first sentence of the first link:

"Comcast Corp. has taken an unprecedented step in Michigan to stop customers from stealing premium cable television:..."

Re:Just forget about tv, its not worth it (2)

tempest303 (259600) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671742)

Amen to that.

Pokemon is NOT hallucinogenic (3, Funny)

Rhinobird (151521) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671762)

Hey now! Pokemon is NOT hallucinogenic. I watch it all the time....whoa! where'd all these pixies come from?!

Seriously, Pokemon doesn't cause hallucinations...it causes seizures, get it straight.

I agree. (1)

willpost (449227) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671776)

TV and games could be ok if you're temporarily unable (too young or ill?) to realize your dreams. After you are able, do what makes you happy. Instant gratification might feel good in the short term but you'll always feel bad if you substitute it for your life ambitions.

Re:Just forget about tv, its not worth it (3, Insightful)

DietFluffy (150048) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671855)

if you want good entertainment you can always rent a movie. Tv is full of ads, many of which are from the large, rich, dmca loving companies that we all dispise. Why would anyone want to PAY to watch disney, or NBC, or warner?

I'm surprised this wasn't modded flamebait. T.V. is bad because it's controlled by Americans and the Japanese? You also said that we shouldn't watch tv because disney and warner are dmca huggers. Instead, you proposed that we go rent movies. Are you aware that Disney and Warner are among the largest movie makers in the world?

Re:Just forget about tv, its not worth it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3672033)

and I'm really surprised this was modded up because TV is mostly controlled by Americans and Japanese. In the past 9 months since my TV stopped working and I didn't go out to get it fixed or buy I another one, I watched maybe all in all 3 hours of programming in total, mainly due to the fact that my girlfriend has a TV she very, very ocassionally watches. I consider myself free of this crap, so fuck off Hollywood and Sony!

Re:Just forget about tv, its not worth it (3, Funny)

edgrale (216858) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671868)

By doing that we are simply funding the companies that are destroying all our freedom.

Easy answer: We need to get Bush to say the following thing "By watching TV you're funding Terrorism!" ;-)

Re:Just forget about tv, its not worth it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3671973)

... if you want good entertainment you can always rent a movie


... such as pokemon, which are basically hallucinogenic sessions


Go rent "Dumbo" and tell me if the Pink Elephant scene is anything more than a hallucinogenic session.


As for not watching TV anymore, I totally agree with the fact that we'd be far better off if we turned the stoooopid thing off and read a book, or <<gasp>> sit and talk with our family. The only caveat to this however is that you really are depriving yourself by not being part of popular culture. Mindless drivel makes for wonderful conversations at "the water cooler" where it allows you to better get to know co-workers etc. Just a thought.

Cable modems anyone? (1)

Lalakis (308990) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671689)

What about people with modified cable modems? They should be sued too for the extra bandwidth they get!

(ok, it's the ISDN/128K user in me that talks now)

Re:Cable modems anyone? (2)

Rhinobird (151521) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671787)

What about the ones that modify thier cables modems to get the bandwidth they pay for? I have a friend in that situation.

from the comcast article (2, Insightful)

phunhippy (86447) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671692)

"Theft of cable TV costs the industry an estimated $6 billion a year, according to the National Cable Television Association."

So they are suing them for 170,000 each.. at that rate there is only roughly a little more then 35,000 people in the US stealing cable. Doesn't seem like very many people to be worried about.. and thats spread out across the whole US.. wonder if those stats include Sat Theft too?

Re:from the comcast article (-1)

ObitMan (550793) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671704)

I think Sat theft falls under different laws.
Basically its in the air and you can grab it.
I think this was proven long ago when companies like OnTV and HBO started broadcasting scrambled signals in the late 70's.
Someone else might have more accurate info.

What is going on? Please read this... (1, Offtopic)

phunhippy (86447) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671733)

OK I'm really confused now.. I got this email from the post above I placed saying someone has give modded me up +1. So i go back to look at all the comments and choose to read at level 3 to see my post easier.. Gee at the time now(10 mins after i got the email) there are no level 3 posts..
Ok i'm thinkin i'll go to my preferences & see how/why it was modded back down. Well I go there and there is nothing listed for that comment as rated +1 interesting as the email tells me or anything bringing it back down to 2.

So what gives? Are the slashdot editors lowering comments they don't like or approve of?

heres the email headers below.. and i still haven't got any email sayin I was modded back down.. Seriously what gives here?

Return-Path:
Delivered-To: phunhippy@evolutionarydeadend.com
Received: (qmail 10645 invoked from network); 10 Jun 2002 07:51:33 -0000
Received: from unknown (HELO cpu59.osdn.com) (XX.XX.XX.XX)
by 0 with SMTP; 10 Jun 2002 07:51:33 -0000
Received: from [10.2.73.1] (helo=localhost)
by cpu59.osdn.com with smtp (Exim 3.35 #1 (Debian))
id 17HKLh-0003Cf-00
for ; Mon, 10 Jun 2002 04:16:25 -0400
Mime-version: 1.0
Content-type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
Date: Mon, 10 Jun 2002 08:20 +0000
Subject: [Slashdot] Moderation of "from the comcast article"
From: slashdot@slashdot.org
To: phunhippy@evolutionarydeadend.com
Content-transfe r-encoding: 8bit
Message-Id:
X-PMFLAGS: 34078848 0 1 P45D10.CNM

A user has given a "Insightful" (+1) moderation to
your comment.
from the comcast article
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=33925&cid=3671 692
Attached to:
Comcast in Court, AT&T Gets Greedy
http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/06/10/002222 3
Your comment is currently scored 3.


Re:What is going on? Please read this... (1, Offtopic)

phunhippy (86447) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671739)

And now i've gotten 2nd email saying its +1 again.. lets see if that one sticks or magically dissapears like the first

not that expensive yet... (2, Insightful)

awing0 (545366) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671693)

I don't think AT&T has gotten greedy yet. They provide me with a 1.5 Megabit downstream and 384 Kilabit upstream 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. To get this kind of link with a DSL line, the prices start around $80 a month in my area, and AT&T is giving me this for around $50. I don't think it's in any of our rights to complain. They have the best deal going! Come on people, get real. Bandwidth isn't cheap. At least it's not a 3GB cap or something stupid like that.

Re:not that expensive yet... (3, Interesting)

Rhinobird (151521) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671780)

All right I think you missed why these people are pissed off. They BOUGHT thier cable modems outright, so now they don't have to pay the leasing charge on the modem itself. AT&T changed thier pricing, now the people who BOUGHT thier cable modems are paying THE SAME PRICE as the people that lease the cable modem. Thier price was jacked up for NO REASON. Basically, AT&T is charging more for the same service because they bought thier modems.

Imagine this, AT&T gives you basic cable and leases you a TV for some amount of money. You go out and buy a TV and have them take back thier TV. Now your bill goes down because you're not paying for the lease on the TV anymore. Say, 2 years later, and AT&T raises your monthly charge. Now you go over to your friend's house and complain about the rate hike, and he doesn't know what the hell you're talking about. Your friend leases his TV and has the same cable service you do. You compare bills and they are the same. WTF? How come his servce+device monthly charge is the same price as your just service charge.

These people do have a legitimate gripe.

Re:not that expensive yet... (1)

wik (10258) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671930)

So maybe AT&T has made up for the cost of the cable modems, but not the cost of maintaining their network. So they no longer need to charge extra for leasing a modem, but they need to recoop charges from everyone to pay for the network. 24 months * $10 = $240, which should pay for a pretty nice cable modem. :-)

I don't see why people who own their cable modems have to have a devine right to lower priced service, particularly if it doesn't cost the cable company more.

Re:not that expensive yet... (2)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671972)

24 months * $10 = $240, which should pay for a pretty nice cable mode

If you read the article it ends up being $240 / $3 = 80 months. This is because rental is now apparently $3 per month and you only get the $10 per month if you post in the $7 coupons. And this will only apply to existing modem owners.

I would figure that ATT was making a good income from modem rentals and since people were starting to buy the modems, they were losing that income and they needed to make up for it somehow.

Re:not that expensive yet... (2)

Rhinobird (151521) | more than 12 years ago | (#3672020)

Now you know why these people BOUGHT the modem.

Re:not that expensive yet... (2)

Rhinobird (151521) | more than 12 years ago | (#3672013)


I don't see why people who own their cable modems have to have a devine right to lower priced service

They DON'T have a divine right to lower priced SERVICE. Service is the keyword. They are providing a service. They are charging for that service. the people that lease the modem are paying for the service PLUS the lease on the modem. The people who own the modem are ONLY paying for the service. AT&T changed the price, so that if you bought your modem the price for the SERVICE is the same as paying for the service plus the modem. AT&T is now saying that there are in fact 2 different prices for the exact same service, depending on if you own the equipment or not.

Let me try a different tack here. Let's say AOL has this deal where you pay for their service and they lease you a computer to use it with...say $70/month total...that'd be $22 for the SERVICE and $48 for the computer. Now let's say you bought that comptuer and just wanted the service. You pay the $22/month for the service. Suddenly they change the deal. You own the computer but they are charging the full $70. basically they say the service is $70. But the people who lease are still paying the same $70. AOL would be saying that the service is $70 a month if you own your own computer. But the service is only $22 if you lease a computer from us for $48, but it's the exact same service.

My point is, for the exact same service, the price for that service should be the same. Why should people who are paying only for the service pay more for that service than people who are also getting the hardware to go with it?

Re:not that expensive yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3671783)

It's always your right to complain - free speech, remember? Perhaps you meant no reason to complain. Did you think what your bill could be if the cable and telecom companies push through some of the bills that are in the House and Senate right now? AT&T stands to come out on top - they own the phone lines, they own the backbone, they now own a large part of the cable network - they will be able to set whatever rates they want, with no competition because instead of requiring equal access to infrastructure the little companies won't be allowed to compete. Bad, very bad.

In my area you can get DSL for $45-100 a month. $45-55 will get you ADSL at 1.5Mb/s down and 256Kb/s up. $100 will get you 7Mb/s down and 1.5Mb/s up - except that the phone company will no longer offer those lines to ISPs, instead they have to make do with the 1.5Mb/s down lines - kinda sucks that in many areas where ADSL was available the only option is now dialup or T1 because Bellsouth got greedier and quit provisioning ADSL circuits.

Any time you lose small ISP or local provider it is *very* bad. The world of tomorrow looks a lot like the world of the 70's - one provider controlling most of the lines that data flows across. Anybody else remember how painfully expensive phone service was? Get ready for the massive hikes in broadband prices - they're coming .

YET! (2)

jackb_guppy (204733) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671794)

Think of it as chipping away.

First owner of Modems - 90% say it not me.

Next it is tiered pricing - 90% say it not me.

Next content control - 90% say it not me.

Next bandwidth limits - oh yeah it already here!

Over Subscribe the channel - 1.5M down is maximum at 3 AM when your nieghbors are a sleep.

Re:not that expensive yet... (1)

joe52 (74496) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671800)

I wouldn't count on AT&T to maintain their current pricing all that much longer. I just think they're trying to decide how to charge for different tiers of consumer service.From the Boston.com article:

She said consistent pricing will enable the company to offer future deals to its customers, including the tiering of Internet speeds. She said the tiering of speeds might come as early as this summer, but declined to comment further.

Why the price hike? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3671949)

Why the price hike?

The real expense of any organization is the people. Do you think AT&T hired more customer support people or installers per subscriber?

Being very familiar with their quality of service, I'd assume "no".

Happily, my town is one of the few with cable competiion. Yep, that's right, I can go with another provider. So goodbye AT&T, hello RCN. Yeah, I'll only save $9/month, but thats $96/year, and hopefully the quality of service will be much improved.

Yeah, I'll have a new email address. Then again, AT&T changed my email address very recently, so that won't stop me at all.

Does the town you live in have a cable service monopoly? If so, too bad.

Legit users hit with stray 'bullet'? (3, Interesting)

CptnKirk (109622) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671694)

I'd be interested to know how this 'bullet' technology works. I know a few people who have been having problems with the receivers in their VCRs (they choose not to rent a box and don't have premium/PPV channels) lately. Sure it could be a flaky VCR, but it's happened to more than one person with newish VCRs.

If Comcast is found to be damaging personal hardware with their 'bullet' it would be funny if those users were able to clame irreparable harm and sue for millions. In short, I think that Comcast better be very careful where they point their guns. In the end this can only be bad for them.

Re:Legit users hit with stray 'bullet'? (-1)

ObitMan (550793) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671715)

Good Point.
I wonder how/if this would also affect tuners in televisions. Damage the wrong guy guys $10k plasma tv and they could be in hot water.

Re:Legit users hit with stray 'bullet'? (3, Informative)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671785)

The "magic bullet" is basically malformed code that the descrambling computer chokes on. It can't hurt your VCR, because your VCR doesn't descramble anything.

Re:Legit users hit with stray 'bullet'? (-1)

boltar (263391) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671791)

Surely just a reset would sort it out though?

Re:Legit users hit with stray 'bullet'? (2)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671807)

I don't think most modern cable boxes can be reset simply by yanking the power. The cable company could reset it remotely, of course, but I suspect they'd either only feign sending the signal or simply tell you to bring your box in if you called to complain within a few hours of the bullet's transmission.

Calling it "code" isn't quite right... (4, Informative)

Raetsel (34442) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671955)


This is analog cable they are talking about here. Calling it "code" makes it sound much more complicated than it actually is. Not that it could harm a VCR (or TIVO) anyway...

I remember the last time the "magic bullet" issue came up. This was several years ago, and it was TCI (the company AT&T bought out) doing it, IIRC.

Shortly after news of the coup hit the press, I started hearing about "magic bullet filters." They were sold under various names (both vague and unabashedly direct!), and were a shockingly simple notch filter.

That's it -- just a little circuit and resistor to keep the signal levels in safe limits for your pirate converter box. What I just read sounds very similar to what I remember:

  1. TCI went to General Instrument (the cable box manufacturer), and said "Okay, if you wanted to pirate cable, how would you do it?"

  2. General Instrument got hold of some of the "aftermarket" equipment, and reverse-engineered it.

    (We're two R-E steps out, now... first the pirates were figuring out the scrambling and getting into "test mode," the second was General Instrument figuring out what differences there were between the 'official' systems and the aftermarket ones.)

  3. General Instrument figures out a signal they can inject into the cable system that will not affect 'legal' boxes, but will overdrive sections of the aftermarket chips -- thus doing irreperable damage, and rendering the cable box inoperative.

  4. TCI injects this signal into their system, and everyone who complains about dead cable receives a rather shocking bill. (If I remember news reports properly, it was $500 - $1000 and a promise to behave. It's been a while.)
Memory is a bit rusty, but that's pretty much how I remember it happening. I can't believe this old trick still works...

Re:Calling it "code" isn't quite right... (1)

flink (18449) | more than 12 years ago | (#3672037)

Didn't they have to stop because it was frying cheap VCRs? What has changed that makes it OK now?

The cost of complaints (2, Insightful)

samjam (256347) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671702)

It costs time and money to handle complaints.

If your company is taking you for a ride with price, and there are no alternatives:

Talk slowly and eloquently, explain the situation, mention what you are and are not happy with etc.

You should be able to draw the complaint out to about half an hour, and if nothing happens, try again 2 or 3 weeks later.

Internet access is a privilege, not a right (1)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671707)

As true as the title I've affixed to this post may be, and as much as the broadband companies use the concept to justify their actions, there is also another truth. The choice to subscribe to a company's service is a right which cannot be taken away from you.

You will not die without broadband. You will not die without the Internet. Probably, your life will be enriched without it.

Re:Internet access is a privilege, not a right (-1)

ObitMan (550793) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671720)

Oh Please.
Enrich all our lives and get off the Internet.

Hows that for Obvious? You really set your self up dude.

Re:Internet access is a privilege, not a right (2, Funny)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671755)

But I'd die without the Internet!

Re:Internet access is a privilege, not a right (-1)

ObitMan (550793) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671768)

What is really bad is for the past 10 years it has been a regular part of my daily life and my businesses.
Even when on vacation I at least knew my connection was available at home.
I will probably be one of those that pays for Internet no matter what the cost.
It would most likely be like death without it.

Re:Internet access is a privilege, not a right (1)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671782)

I don't think I could say the same. As much as I am constantly surrounded by computers and have Internet access at work and at home, I think I could possibly give it up and suffer no ill effects save /. posting withdrawal. Even that would clear up in a few days.

My wife, on the other hand, is completely dependent on it. She's overseas now and has made sure to get a local access number from a relative living in the area. Funny, I was the one that introduced her to the Internet. Now she's a web developer and I'm back in QA.

Re:Internet access is a privilege, not a right (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671790)

Oh, sure. I know there are people who use the Internet as a tool. But some of us practically live on it. I have more friends online than in real life, and losing internet access would be extremely depressing to me. Even losing ADSL would be quite hard because it would be much harder to talk to people from other countries.

Please read this article (0, Flamebait)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671805)

This guy was like you. [wired.com] There are places you can go if you need to talk to someone about your depression and Internet addiction. There are lots [tripod.com] of resources that can help.

It's Not About "Privilege" (3, Insightful)

krmt (91422) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671878)

That won't make these people feel any less cheated. Yes, they can take their business elsewhere, but what about that cable modem they've already bought? As the article said, it was an act of faith in the company, a guarantee of staying with them until at least the modem itself was paid off. By switching the pricing scheme to target these people specifically, AT&T is basically saying "up yours" to these people.

So why shouldn't they feel upset at this again?

Just because Internet access is not a right (although I'd call it a luxury rather than privilege, as the term luxury implies that the customer actually gives something back for it) doesn't mean that companies should be screwing with their customers, and it's just plain stupid to screw with their best customers who are willing to pay a premium for a year or more.

This isn't a story of luxury vs. rights. This is simply a tale of mistreatment of customers.

Re:Internet access is a privilege, not a right (3, Informative)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671915)



The choice to subscribe to a company's service is a right which cannot be taken away from you.


You will not die without broadband. You will not die without the Internet. Probably, your life will be enriched without it.


Society changes. It is influenced by events and technology around it and, in turn, drives technology and events. What was once novel and unique can easily become a common part of life in that society. The trivial can become irreplaceable.


At one point in time, the telephone was often labled a trivial toy of limited use and predicted to fade into obscurity. Now, the telephone is a key tool for everything from business and employment to emergency service to communications with geographically distant friends and family. It is an indispensible part of many modern societies.


One can live without a telephone. But you will find yourself seriously limited by it unless you move to an environment where such technology isn't commonly used. You NEED phone access.


Neal Stephenson makes an interesting observation in his article Mother Earth Mother Board [wired.com] . Bell sent the world on a technological devolved shunt. For a time, the world's telecommunications technology was digital, ableit of limited capacity. There were some theories towards increasing that capacity but they hadn't panned out (although they are actually the basis of technology being used today). And then Bell had us all going to analog. Its taken us centuries to get back to digital.


And now we have the Internet. It has the potential to not only absorb the roles of the telephone, but push the realms of communication and data (if it hasn't already). But much of that relies on broadband.


And because of that, the same concerns which have driven the telecomunications industry through its analog telephone days will continue to drive it well in the the Internet age. What has made telephone service important and ensured that it would be available to all (within some reason) will also eventually drive broadband access.

coupons (1)

Pilferer (311795) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671717)

It the wake of recent customer complaints, AT&T has started offering coupons to offset the monthly increase, but only for the next six months.

They planned on doing this from the very beginning. This is not in response to customer complaints. They knew this would be unpopular and came up with the coupon idea ahead of time.

Duh (5, Funny)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671718)

We need a financial Darwin Awards. Get this:

The customers themselves turned over illegally modified cable boxes to the company when the boxes stopped working.

Call me crazy, but I don't think turning your illegally modified cable descrambler in to the cable company for repair after it stops working due to the cable company deactivating it is a good idea.

For bonus points, diagram the above sentence.

considering... (2)

martissimo (515886) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671740)

When customers called to say their service was out, Comcast sent a technician or asked subscribers to bring in the box. The company recovered 525 boxes that it said had been modified.
Several hundred Macomb subscribers received letters from a collection firm hired to recover money for Comcast. Most have already settled. Only people who didn't respond to letters or calls were sued, Hnilica said


considering that 509 of them took care of it on their own by doing so, and settled out of court, and only 16 of them are being sued for the 170k fine who didnt turn the boxes in...

who ya think is gonna end up paying less?

Same baloney (1)

no-body (127863) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671719)

They are always in the same groove:

Loss, loss, loss... billions...

As if everyone would subscribe if the boxes would not be around.

Same goes for software, music - etc..

Get a cable modem, go to jail (3, Informative)

ddent (166525) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671728)

I wonder, those 10 subscribers they are suing, who didn't respond to calls. Are they dead? Never existed? Cats? see http://www.geocities.com/flutocracy/cablemodem.htm [geocities.com]

The Cable Industry (2)

funkhauser (537592) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671741)

The nonsense that the article talks about, recent price hikes, electronic "bullets", etc., are just more examples of what corporations do to protect their cashflow. Who cares about individual rights if the bottom line is looking rosy?

The cable company that provided service for my dorm last semester ran these ads that encouraged other people to rat out people who were getting free cable. Does anyone else find this really humorous? I mean, if I know someone getting free cable, I'm going to ask them to hook me up, not turn 'em in for some Cable Industry Good Consumer Award.

Check out the site here [cabletheft.com] .

Re:The Cable Industry (1)

Bartab (233395) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671747)

Who cares about individual rights if the bottom line is looking rosy?

Ok, clue me in here. What rights? Right to steal cable? Right to underpriced broadband? I'm not sure what rights of yours these companies are violating.

Re:The Cable Industry (1)

Fomhoire (264466) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671761)

Look at the whois results for cabletheft.com.

If this site is legitimate why is the information bogus?

Re:The Cable Industry (1)

rmadmin (532701) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671841)

More interesting is the load of other sites hosted by the same company (same box?) This Netcraft list [netcraft.com] proves quite usefull. The list includes www.illegal.com [illegal.com] , www.wife-beaters.com [wife-beaters.com] , and www.vandals.com [vandals.com] . I just thought that was interesting.

Another reason to not watch TV (1)

willpost (449227) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671746)

If you're trying to simplify life then removing the distractions will help greatly.

contents of "magic bullet" packet (0, Redundant)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671748)

How are you gentlemen!
All your TV are belong to us!

if you are stupid you have to pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3671749)

The customers themselves turned over illegally modified cable boxes to the company when the boxes stopped working
-----

If they are stupid enough to turn over the hacked boxes they deserve their faith.

The cable stealers were idiots (5, Interesting)

leereyno (32197) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671767)

Their first mistake was to modify a box that the cable company owned. They should have bought a descrambler of their own on the grey market. These 3rd party descrablers are "bullet" proof anyway which would have completely solved the problem altogether before it started. Their second mistake was calling the cable company and complaining when their modified box stopped working. They should have been FAR more cautious than that. If I hacked something and it stopped working the first thing I'd assume is that it was either something I did or something the cable company did in response. I would have checked to see whether the box was still good, which is as simple as connecting the cable straight to the tv. At that point I'd take steps to replace the box on my own, or at the very least undo the hack, assuming that was possible, before handing it over to the cable company.

I heard of this same tactic being used when I was living in DC back in the late 80's. You would think that people would be wise to it by now.

I'll bet you that of the people who are stealing cable in that region, all that were caught were fools and idiots. Anyone with a brain would not be so easily busted. I figure the 170k is nothing more than a stupidity tax, something I never ever see a problem with.

A word of advice to all those who would break the law or do something that could get them in trouble, develop some street smarts and an ounce of common sense beforehand.

Lee

YOU WIN! (5, Interesting)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671798)

On the topic of stupid cable thieves who get tricked into turning themselves in, I just wanted to mention another trick the cable companies have pulled in the past.

You'd be watching your show, and right when the movie was due to begin, you'd see a message saying you won a prize (new TV, whatever), and to call a number to claim it. When you called and gave your name and address, you'd then wind up losing your cable service and/or having to pay a fine or go to court.

What happened? The cable company scrambled that ad with a key that no one was supposed to be set up to receive. But the modified boxes would treat it as a regular scrambled show and decode it. So only the cable pirates would get the message.

Re:The cable stealers were idiots (5, Funny)

0xA (71424) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671890)

Their second mistake was calling the cable company and complaining when their modified box stopped working. They should have been FAR more cautious than that.

I've almost done something similar. A couple months ago my cable went out for 3 days, I got pissed and called the cable company as there was something I wanted to watch that night. Thank god I was stuck on hold for a few minutes, it gave me time to realize that I hadn't ever had my cable service setup. The previous occupant of my apartment had it and while he cancled his account (no bill in the mail) they never deactivated the cable. I hung up before someone picked up the call, thank god.

Penis (-1)

Serial Troller (556155) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671773)

My penis is broken. Maybe I shouldn't've shoved it up so many people's asses. Mm?

Reason for ATT Broadband rate hike (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3671797)

The only reason ATT raised the rates was to ofset the cost of the "FREE" cable modems that they are supplying to Dell to give away with computers, that you then have to subscribe to AT&T to use. Saving you a whopping 3 dollars per month. Not to mention screwing all of use who have purchased our own modems.

Another problem coming up (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3671803)

Our company does some business with ATT and have access to their Broadband information via employees (hence my anonymous, and hence a lack of specific geography).

One of the "goodies" that will be coming up after the Comcast/ATT merger will be the sudden announcement of all current home users to a 256K cap on bandwidth, and the next level (384K) will be available as a "premium" service for about $80 per month, with no static IP.

Businesses will get the 384K service and a static IP for $375/month, according to the source. The point behind this is that ATT doesn't want any home user to have static IP, and are going to try and price it outside the reach of the average person's ability to pay.

We're volume profit, while businesses are pure profit.

Also, one last point...the 'free ride' on ATT is over. On or about July 1, they will be installing what I've been told is the "new Cisco software" which will prevent anyone from homesteading IP addresses as has been the case. Apparently, the dynamic IPs will override the static IP in the present software, which means that when ATT went to a business, they could not guarantee that the IP address wasn't already taken by DHCP for a home user.

With the "new business model" that the merger will bring, the home user will have services cut and prices raised, which will subsidize the business services to the point where those monthly service charges from business will be pure profit at our expense.

It won't interfere with general service, but if you've not had your IP switched on you for a while, you'll likely lose service until you reboot your home network.

Wuh? (-1)

Jean Marie le Penis (575842) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671804)

The hypocritical slashbots seem to think it's legitimate to steal bandwidth. They also seem to think broadband is an essential - like fresh water. Well, how would you feel if someone was stealing your water supply (by connecting a huge pump to the main) so that you couldn't get any? Would that be a good thing?

Get this: the cable companies are providing broadband so as to make a profit. If you feel it's too expensive, don't buy it. Companies will only provide cheap, big pipes if there's something in it for them. That's the way it works.

Broadband should be free as in speech (-1)

bunungs (536665) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671888)

Broadband should be free as in speech and free as in beer. We all know it doesn't cost anything for these companies to run the internet. Stop kidding everybody.

Common sense? (4, Funny)

Alsee (515537) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671806)

When customers called to say their service was out, Comcast sent a technician or asked subscribers to bring in the box.

You should always take any dead bodies out of your car before dropping it off at the service station.

-

Re:Common sense? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3672038)

Thanks. Now you tell me.



John Gotti

The fines arn't that bad (1)

JavaTHut (9877) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671813)

170K ought to be enough for anyone ...

Capitalism, in theory and practice (5, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671839)

In theory:
  1. Offer a better product at a lower price.
  2. Gain market share.
  3. Spend the money on creating better and cheaper products.
  4. GOTO 1.
In practice:
  1. Follow the theory, burning venture capital money, until you have a significant number of customers tied in to long term relationships.
  2. Decide how much profit you deserve, and set your prices accordingly. Every time a customer leaves (if you've been kind enough to allow them contracts that let them leave) crank up the costs to the remaining customers. The beauty of this method is that while it seems like only idiots would tolerate it, you just rebrand yourself as a "prestige service", and as long as you have one idiot left willing to pay your price, it works.
  3. Offer a great package to new customers, and then as soon as they sign on the dotted line, begin a campaign of abuse in tandem with FUD until they become so beaten and cynical that they believe it's pointless even changing to another supplier.
  4. Constantly cut back on staff while giving multi-million dollar rewards to your executives for their bold cost saving initiatives. Refer to this funelling of money from many purchasers to a few major stock holders as "stimulating the economy". And remember guys, get that money offshore as soon as possible, so that the evil IRS can't steal it and spend it on schools and hospitals!
  5. Spend the money you save on telling your customers what great value for money they're getting. Anything left goes into a college fund - for sending the children of friendly Congressmen and Senators through college, of course.
  6. GOTO 2, until your last customer leaves, or you spread your campaign contributions too thin and the DOJ, SEC or FTC finally point out that the emperor has no clothes on.

Overly cynical, or an honest assessment of how a system composed of a few huge imcumbents actually works in practice? Make your own mind up.

Re:Capitalism, in theory and practice (-1)

Anal Cocks (557998) | more than 12 years ago | (#3672045)

"IRS can't steal it and spend it on schools and hospitals!"

I think you meant "and spend it on bombing countries most Americans can't even spell, and paying lazy slobs to not work."

Modem hacking instructions still on internet (-1)

bunungs (536665) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671872)

A quick google search showed me that the instructions to modify the modems were still freely available on the internet.

What is even more bizzare is the instructions had warnings regarding what not to do in the event that modem ceased to function.

All I can say is RTFM!

linkies [google.com]

OpenGL peanut gallery (2)

Graymalkin (13732) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671881)

It really and truly sucks AT&T has decided to impose a rate hike on people choosing not to get screwed up the ass by them. Logically it makes sense, for every user not using an AT&T modem they're missing out on the rental fee of that modem. You can be sure the cost of the modem itself has amortized so only a fraction of the rental fee is actually used to cover the cost of it which they got at wholesale prices. Say they make five bucks a month off each rented modem, that is nice chunk of change when all of your subscribers are renting modems. Taking away a couple million free dollars from someone is going to make them pretty angry. However, thats the ropes of an industry with published standards. A DOCSIS capable modem is going to work on their network, paying customers ought not be prevented from buying their own modems.

There is some crappy legistlation around for cable television boxes that I hope doesn't end up repeated with cable modems. Under FCC rules a cable operator can't prevent you from buying your own cable equipment and using it as long as it conforms to all regulations and specifications. The crappy part is those rules don't prohibit a cable operator from requiring you rent some ludicrous piece of equipment like a remote control or converter. What I hope doesn't happen is the cable operators being required to let people buy their DOCSIS compliant modems buy they have to lease something as trivial as a T-splitter. This is bad legistlation and it would be shitty if it was applied to cable modems. However, there are also rules stating that a cable subscriber can set up all of their own equipment which makes me wonder how the circular logic if allowing an operator to require the lease of some piece of equipment while also maintaining that subscribers can maintain their own equipment.

Isn't this entrapment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3671916)

We don't have entrapment laws in the UK, but from what I understand of US law, doesn't this count as entrapment.

Strikes me that if they have the magic bullet technology which can disable the hacked boxes, then they should be using it on a daily basis. Not waiting for sufficient people to hack their boxes and then attempting to sue their asses for everything they're worth.

Entrapment vs "just getting caught". (3, Insightful)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671985)

No, entrapment is when laaw enforcement plants the seeds of criminal conduct in the mind of the suspect.

Think vice cops begging someone to "just pay $20 and I'll give you an extrra 2 hours in the ho'tel". If that person wasn't out looking for a prostitute, then they may never have even broken the law if it weren't for the cops enticing them to do so.

With this, there are several points. First, the cable co isn't a law enforcement authority (unless there is something I haven't heard). And second, they never enticed someone to break the law. Of the two, I think the latter is the most important, because if they had enticed the cable thieves, this might be an adequate defense in court.

cabletheft.com (2)

0xA (71424) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671921)

Anyone else see this link:

http://www.cabletheft.com/ [cabletheft.com]

God damn that's funny. I wonder if that actually works, I suppose you'd get some info from pissed off romantic partners or something.

Anybody know if we can get the addresses of AT&T's board members from the SEC or something?

How our cable TV bill suddenly tripled (5, Informative)

Roblimo (357) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671933)

We subscribe to Roadrunner + TW's basic cable in Bradenton, FL. One day we get our bill and the cable portion has jumped from ~$12 to over $40. I call, they say we're getting premium cable service, they've run a system audit, they're charging us what they should have charged us all along.

I'm like, "Say what?" You suddenly decide to give us and charge us for service we never ordered? Take it off our bill.

TW Rep: "I can't do that. You're enjoying the premium service and must pay for it."

Back and forth, no supervisor around, I call back the next day. TW assumption is that we have climbed the pole and removed a filter. I haven't. Our neighbors are in the their 70s and probably haven't either. I finally get bumped far enough up the TW customer "service" chain to get the charge removed, but not until after I file a (still unanswered) complaint with the FL Dept. of Consumer Affairs does the excess charge actually come off our bill.

The installer who comes out the next day to put on the correct filter says this happens all the time, that the day before he was out at the house of another suspected "cable pirate" who was in his 80s, in a wheelchair, and on a respirator, who sure hadn't been climbing poles, and had been paying the overcharge for months until his son came to visit and noticed his oversized cable bill.

The installer said the filters were often defective, that this was the problem more often than people stealing cable service, but that the company just assumed everyone was a thief and charged them no matter what.

I talked to the system's marketing manager. He told me almost all of the people who got extra service were stealing it on purpose, which contradicted the installer's comments. I don't know who to believe, but I am suspicious.

At least in FL I have a choice of 2 cable Internet service providers and a dozen DSL providers, and it's far enough south that sat TV is clear. In MD (my other residence) my only broadband Internet alternative is Comcast, and they suck so badly I endure a phone modem here, and we're in a tree-lined valley where satellite TV won't work.

Too bad FCC Chairman Powell loves and trusts cable TV companies so much that he doesn't mind them holding defacto monopolies over bradband Internet in much of the country. He ought to go to work for one of them if he loves them so much, and get off the public payroll, since he's not willing to lift a finger to help the citizens who pay his salary keep the cable TV operators from screwing them.

- Robin

Prices levelling out... (1)

GLX (514482) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671968)

One thing people fail to mention is that when the prices were originally set three to four years ago($7.95 for cable modem rental), cable modems were still in the ~$300 range - even in bulk they were still in the ~$200 range.

Now, they can be had for $55 on cdw.com

Yes, people who bought their modems 3 years ago are getting screwed - BUT - if they paid $300 for their modem, they've basically made their investment back... Yes, they're not making a mint off of it, but they're also not getting screwed.

Look at it objectively - they're charging you $47.95/month for service, whether or not you own a modem. If you don't own a modem, they're charging you $3/month to rent a $60 modem.
States would probably jump on it as fraud in five seconds flat if AT&T continued charging $8/month to rent a $60 modem... The modem would be paid off in 10 months... But at $3/month, it'll take almost 2 years to justify it - normal for most leases.

6 Billion?!? Puh-lease... (2, Insightful)

nautical9 (469723) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671988)

"Theft of cable TV costs the industry an estimated $6 billion a year, according to the National Cable Television Association."

I hate these kind of fabricated numbers - the question is, would the 11 million people who are supposedly stealing cable and sat services (more detail here [techtv.com] ) have really bought 6 billion bucks worth of programming and pay-per-view if they didn't have their illegal access. I think their number would be far lower.

That's like the recording industry claiming massive theft when someone downloads a popular single they heard on the radio - would that person have actually gone out and purchased the CD for that song if the file-sharing apps weren't around? I doubt it, at least most of the time. I know I download hundreds of tunes that I never would have considered buying in the first place (but may now purchase because I get to hear what the CD sounds like - but that's a different argument...)

If I had access to free pay-per-view, I'd watch almost every movie out there, as I'm a huge movie buff. But I don't have free access, and I've never purchased a single pay-per-view program - how can the cable company claim any losses?

Re:6 Billion?!? Puh-lease... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3672054)

It's not a function of the potential they stand to make. It makes more sense to say "We're losing $6bln USD a year because of cable theft" instead of "If the people who are stealing cable actually paid for it, we'd make an extra $500,000 a year." Common sense will tell you that the cable companies will want it to look like they're losing more to justify their actions, which I actually support because I'm a law-abiding citizen (except those damn speed limits).

Some corrections to the first articles (4, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 12 years ago | (#3671992)

(Before you mod this as troll or flamebait, please do me and the community the courtesy of reading to the end to see the point that I'm making)

  • Comcast Corp. has taken an unprecedented step in Michigan to stop customers from stealing premium cable television

Replace with "obtaining access to a shared resource without paying the agreed price"

  • rigging illegal access to premium channels and pay-per-view movies

Replace with "access in excess of their contracted level"

  • The customers themselves turned over illegally modified cable boxes

Replace with "cable boxes modified in breach of their contract".

  • Theft of cable TV costs the industry an estimated $6 billion a year

Replace with "Unauthorized access to the shared resource" and "lowers the maximum possible hypothetical gross earnings of the industry by"

  • "The chosen route is really to try to educate people that stealing cable is a crime,"

Replace with "obtaining access to a shared analog resource in excess of your contract is a breach of that contract, and a possible breach of copyright, both of which are actionable in civil lawsuits, but neither of which can be prosecuted as criminal acts."

Gosh, what a change that makes. And yet my interpretation is closer to the one that a court will use to determine the type and degree of offence here, because it will actually deal with what the law says, and not what Comcast wishes that it says.

Some context: I neither perform nor endorse obtaining access to cable content in excess of your contract. I thoroughly welcome individual lawsuits against individuals who do this (rather than against those providing the tools, or legislating against technology), and indeed any suit that makes individuals responsible for their actions. I understand that these suits are civil only because the devices in question are analog, and that under the DMCA, modifying a digital device to obtain access to copyighted content would be a criminal offence.

But what I will not let slip by is the manipulation of language and law to create a crime where none exists, nor will I accept the use of hate speech to brand end consumers as criminals when breach of contract in the business world is spun as oversight, regrettable necessity or overzealous compliance with the fiduciary duty to maximise profit. When a business breaches contract law by (e.g.) trying to enforce an unreasonable contract clause, do we call them criminals and jail them as a menace to society? No, we say that they are behaving unreasonably, that they are in breach of contract law, we (perhaps) levy a small fine, and we instruct them to comply with both the letter and spirit of the contract. That is all.

These people obtaining premium cable are in breach of contract. That, and only that. They are not criminals, and I rather hope that some of them invest in a libel suit to demonstrate that.

Fines extreme? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3672016)

How can you think the fines are extreme? It's simple, these people are stealing cable. Do the crime, pay the time/fine. I'm sick of you people who think that you deserve to get it free because it's already coming into your houses wiring. Welcome to the world, nothing is free. You gotta pay to play. Gas, grass, or ass....nobody rides free. If you can't afford your cable, you should get used to networks and rabbit ears.

A bit steep? (1)

mydigitalself (472203) | more than 12 years ago | (#3672019)

these fines (170k) seem a bit much to me.

so what, a $30 dollar fine and a slap on the wrists? i'm sorry but to prevent this kind of thing from happening again they need to not only THREATEN large penalties, but actually IMPLEMENT them as well. i reckon 170k and no criminal record is quite a deal...

Re:A bit steep? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3672036)

"well. i reckon 170k and no criminal record is quite a deal"
Have you ever been to Detroit?

Screwing Comcast is a patriotic thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3672031)

Screw-em, then screw-em s'more.

No sympathy for the cable companies under any circumstances. Nothing. Never.

Perfectly Legit and perfectly greedy... (1)

cnelzie (451984) | more than 12 years ago | (#3672035)

I am of the opinion that what Comcast has done, in regards to its cable television theft problem, is perfectly legit. They own the cable box, they own the cable television distribution. People are modifying Comcast's equipment and also stealing the bread and butter of Comcast. They deserve what they get for stealing.

Of course, the sad thing is that those areas of Michigan aren't known for having the highest of income levels. Those 16 households that didn't contact Comcast are probably barely treading water over their debt. Then they receive some gigantic, "We believe that you have stolen our cable for 2 years" bill, which probably amounts to a few grand or more.

Some people believe that if they ignore something, it will go away. That is probably what those 16 households were thinking... I know, it is bizarre to think that way, but people do think that way.

What Comcast should do, is simply refuse to service those "customers". It would probably be a much more fiscally responsible thing to do. If those people are to the hilt with debt. Comcast will get stuck with a giant lawyer bill and those people will be forced to declare bankruptcy and may end up losing everything that they barely own. 16 families out in the street.

Way to go Comcast.

Perhaps they'd appreciate this: (4, Insightful)

jekk (15278) | more than 12 years ago | (#3672053)

On the AT&T article is a link to the cable theft [cabletheft.com] site. This is a wonderful location, where you are encouraged to (anonmously) rat on your friends and neighbors for stealing cable. Just for fun, I suggest you stop by this site and enter the name and address of your local govener, mayor, or other upstanding citizen.

These "rat on your neighbors" programs (Business Software Alliance in particular, but the principle is general) REALLY get on my nerves. Guilty if accused is a BADLY broken policy and needs to be driven home to everyone.

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