Time Warner Tries to Nip Illegal Cable Access in Bud

Wired for sound.

A furball fan relayed to el gato a copy of a cease-and-desist letter that Time Warner Cable sent to folks it suspected were transmitting the companys broadband cable service over wireless networks in and around New York.

Although wireless users might claim theyre only extending their paid cable Internet service from a residential link to an office or other destination, most of the large broadband providers understandably frown on wireless transmission of such services with open access points, fearing that anyone in the vicinity with a wireless network card can tap the service for free.

The letter warns that such activity is considered redistribution of the service and violates state and federal laws for which offenders can be fined as much as $50,000.

Time Warner Cable goes on to say that the problem goes beyond mere theft. The company, it says, is concerned that criminals could perform illegal acts anonymously by tapping into the broadcasters cable service account. Sounding like Joe Friday from "Dragnet" lecturing a wayward teen-ager on the perils of falling in with a bad crowd, the letter points out that if law enforcement officials had to trace such criminal activity, the trail of misdeeds would end at the users account.

While stating that "it is not our desire at this time to sue you," the letter asks recipients to provide written assurance to the company within three days that their account will no longer be used in such a manner.

Upon reading the letter, the Kitty was curious if the problem is so huge that the cable company is roaming the streets of New York sniffing for 802.11b packets and networks as vigorously as cable providers have often tried to track down black-box owners who get cable TV service illegally.

"Its a fairly new and small concern at the moment," said a spokeswoman for the company. The spokeswoman also told El Gato that only about a dozen letters were sent and that to her knowledge, almost all the recipients have responded with the requested confirmation that their wireless transmission of the cable service would cease.

"So, were the culprits tracked by some newfangled, Wi-Fi-sniffing mobile units the company has prowling the Big Apple?" the Kitty queried. "No," chuckled the spokeswoman. "It came to our attention because the parties involved were boasting about it on the Internet on certain Web sites, and we thought we needed to nip it in the bud right away."

Spencer F. Katt

Spencer F. Katt

Spencer F. Katt, the Whiskered Wonder, has been the mascot and tipster extraordinaire for eWEEK and its predecessor print publication PC Week since 1984. The Gadabout Gatto makes the rounds of...