What is Cable Theft?
Cable theft is the illegal interception of cable programming services without the express authorization of, or payment to, a cable company.

Active Theft occurs when someone knowingly and intentionally makes an illegal physical connection to the cable system in their area. Active Theft also occurs when someone knowlingly and intentionally attaches equipment (i.e., black boxes, descramblers, decoders, etc.) for the unauthorized receipt of cable services.

Why is it illegal?
The Federal Communications Commission released a public notice in November, 1994, stating that the use of cable descramblers not authorized by cable systems is a violation of federal law.

Sentences in federal and state theft of services cases have ranged from probation to 16 years in prison. Fines and restitution have ranged from several hundred dollars to $2.7 million.

How widespread is it?
Overall average percentages of theft are 11.48% for basic service, and 9.23% for premium service.

A theft of service sting commissioned by Showtime for the Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield fight showed nearly 50% of viewers watching the fight pirated the signal.

How much does it cost the cable company?
Each illegal decoder sold to a consumer costs the cable industry approximately $2,598 in lost revenue over its useful life expectancy. Based on a 1995 survey by the National Cable Television Association, the cable industry loses an average of $5.1 billion in unrealized revenue annually.

This does not even include unauthorized reception of pay-per-view programming. In 1996, law enforcement agencies siezed more than 500,000 devices. Analysis of the units showed that 80% of them were capable of illegally receiving pay-per-view services.

Does it also affect the consumer?
Yes! Cable piracy can affect the picture quality of the entire system by weakening the signal. Poor picture quality increases service calls and other system maintenance, raising costs and putting pressure on cable rates.

Even more serious, lives can be endangered by the shoddy work of cable thieves. Cable's usually "closed-circuit" distribution system can be compromised, resulting in interference with aeronautic radio navigation signals and emergency service radio transmissions.