Stealing cable over the air


This morning I Googled the thread title and found this,,,
Stealing Cable

The guy gets free cable via the over the air signals due to "cable leakage."

Rather it's stealing or not, it's still pretty cool in my book that this guy can pick up pay-tv channels with only rabbit ears so I gave it a try. I set the tv to 'Cable' and did a scan only to find that one single channel came in. It was the local analog ION station and the tv says it's channel 91.

I suspect it's not a cable signal.

Over the air, the local Ion station is on channel 40 so I'm guessing that's what the tv tuner is picking up but why would it show up as channel 91 when I scanned for channels in the cable mode? Seems to me if it was from cable leakage I would have picked up more than a single channel.

Oh well, it didn't work here but others may want to give it a try because you too may have "Cable leakage" just waiting to be tapped into.

Fringe Reception

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Locally, the underground coax Compost uses was installed over 35 years ago and I know for a fact, several companies worked with it (ultimately Comcast/Xfinia now owns it) and they all fought to maintain service to their subscribers over the years WITHOUT spending the money to replace the NOW DEAD buried coax. Certainly, it's not my fault!

GREAT IDEA and I have thought about this for many years. I know for certain in my neighborhood they have installed 'strong' amplifiers into there systems and if their system is no longer sheilded (coaxial cable leaks) why not hunt for leakege signals?

As I recall, according to the FCC Communications Act of 1934, ANYTHING received OTA is fair game as long as it is not resold/used for personal financial gain and that makes it legal to receive. It was (and probably still is) against Federal Law to repeat anything heard on Citizens Band Radio, good buddy. 10-4? Yes, I know the 1934 Act was ammended with 'new' legislation making it illegal receive cell phone communications.

TIM! Next Q: If I have success receiving leakage signals, would a 'box' help? This may be another new frontier for experimenters! If there is an RF leak, why couldn't I build specifically designed antennas and focus them at the sources of those RF leaks? This could become really fun in a hurry! I will do a new scan soon and report back here.

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I have gotten signal from leaky cable systems before, but not strong enough to investigate further. At the time I got my TV on rabbit ears, analog, and I was living in a trailer park. No doubt, a lot of shady wiring going on. I was simply pissed because it caused ghosting on my OTA! I suppose if I had an antenna, I could have gotten the signal strong enough to be usable.


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Receiving from leaky cable is not illegal for you. However it can land the cable company in hot water with the FCC. They have to do periodic inspections and fly over tests and cure any leakage that is above a certain level.

Tim, that channel 91 you get is not a cable signal. Cable channel 91 is actually channel 40 UHF. They use a lot of channels from 54MHz up to 860MHz or so and include nearly every frequency. Newer tuners go to 1GHz.

RF Engineer

"Theft of service" is the legal precedent used by cable companies to prosecute unauthorized use of their signals.

That said, severe cable leakage can allow watchable cable signals to be picked up by a nearby antenna directed at the leak.

Today, 95% of cable systems use 100% shielded RG6 drops and only deliver the bare minimum levels so leakage is very minimal and rare.

Utility companies own the right of way around neighborhood overhead lines and all things within 20 feet of them so any intrusion into that right of way is not allowed
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