How should we handle our neighbors stealing our cable?
May 30, 2008 6:54 PM   Subscribe

Should we do anything about our neighbors stealing our cable and crippling our broadband for the past 2 months?

My two roommates and I live in a 2-flat in Chicago. For the past 2 months, the uptime for our Comcast broadband service has been 60% at best.

Before today, we had no success in fixing the issue: Multiple hours on the phone with Comcast, 2 tech visits, new splitters, cables, taps, modems, routers, etc.

Comcast sent their big guns out today. A tech astutely followed the drop from the utility pole in the back alley and found the culprit: A new Radioshack splitter and 50 feet of their finest coax snaking around the back of the building into the basement window.

He quickly phoned home to verify that we had the only Comcast account in the building, "deactivated" the old drop, and ran a fresh one for us.

The result: Everything is up and running better-than-ever: No large TV artifacts, no "Communications Errors" for OnDemand, and most importantly, fully operational high speed Internet access.

With all the time (and even money) we have spent trying to fix this, should we bring this up to anyone? Neighbors? Landlord? Police? The techs who came out weeks ago should have found this but Comcast has been gracious enough to waive large portions of our bill for the affected time range.
posted by hitopshelf to Computers & Internet (28 answers total)
*Maybe* landlord, but I'd be asking Comcast for credit, it's their service you're paying for that they didn't deliver.
posted by iamabot at 7:04 PM on May 30, 2008

I would report this to the police. Contact Comcast's legal dept and let them know.
posted by charlesv at 7:05 PM on May 30, 2008

It sounds like the issue is fixed. Aside from following up with the cable company to recoup any monetary loss you consider you've suffered (i.e., 40% of the rate for the duration of the problem), what are you looking for?
posted by odinsdream at 7:05 PM on May 30, 2008

Do nothing for the time being, but watch the wire for future tampering.
posted by aramaic at 7:07 PM on May 30, 2008

Googling "comcast steal cable" took me to this. I would assume that Comcast will take care of any police-related matters, since they are a victim.

...Comcast has been gracious enough to waive large portions of our bill for the affected time range.

Sounds like you have been taken care of. The rest is up to Comcast. Contact them if you find that the problem comes back.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:10 PM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding odinsdream. Even if you desperately want to exact revenge, how much do you want to start a-feudin' with the people who live in your basement? The problem with your cable has been solved, why create a new one?
posted by mumkin at 7:17 PM on May 30, 2008

yeah, i wouldn't do anything about it, just keep an eye out in case it happens again. if it does, tell your landlord.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:19 PM on May 30, 2008

The traditional remedy is to go kick their asses. Of course, this puts you in jail.

When they try this again, fuck with them. Kill the connection during the Super Bowl. Perhaps, pull the plug and put 120 volts down the cable (really, don't do this, you might kill both yourself and them), hook the cable up to a high pressure hose and shoot water into their electronics (again, this might not be an intelligent thing to do). Realistically, call the police. So boring, so safe, yet it gets the job done.
posted by caddis at 7:33 PM on May 30, 2008

If Comcast left the remains of the 50ft cable you might want to go down and cut it in a few spots, just to make it a bit harder for them to do it again.
posted by furtive at 7:54 PM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

The techs who came out weeks ago should have found this but Comcast has been gracious enough to waive large portions of our bill for the affected time range.

You've been remunerated. Comcast is ruthless. There's nothing more you need to do.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:02 PM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Comcast failed to provide you with the service they promised. The reason why the service didn't work is irrelevant. If you feel that you haven't been properly compensated, talk to Comcast, not the neighbours.

The neighbours stole from Comcast, not you. It's Comcast's job/problem to go after them, not yours.
posted by winston at 8:17 PM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the responses everyone.

I main reason I'm asking if we should pursue talking to anyone is more for documentation purposes -- e.g. if another situation arises and we need to cite this as an example.

It's actually not the first problem we've had with the neighbors regarding services. When they first moved in a couple months ago, they thought they'd roll the dice and see if they could get away with not signing up for service from the electric company.

Unfortunately, the apparent billing imprecisions that flats create caused ComEd to just transfer their usage to our bill.

We've worked with our Landlord and ComEd to sort this out; originally approaching both without the knowledge that our neighbors purposefully hadn't signed up for an account.
posted by hitopshelf at 8:20 PM on May 30, 2008

If you feel like doing something petty and destructive to the thieves' cable, don't chop it; that's far too obvious. Pin it instead. A few ordinary household pins pushed through the cable in random spots to short the centre conductor to the shield, with both ends clipped off flush with the cable jacket, and a couple of dabs of Sharpie to hide any remaining silvery sticky-out bits, will render a cable quite mysteriously non-operational.
posted by flabdablet at 8:23 PM on May 30, 2008 [8 favorites]

"Comcast failed to provide you with the service they promised. The reason why the service didn't work is irrelevant."

I couldn't disagree more. Comcast most certainly did deliver the service; however it was being intercepted by a law-breaking neighbor.

Consider a newspaper subscriber who doesn't get their paper for two weeks, only to find out their neighbor has been stealing the paper off their porch. Would you seriously argue that the paper carrier failed to deliver the newspaper as promised?

Place the blame where blame is due -- on the thieving neighbor.
posted by CrayDrygu at 8:38 PM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

This kind of thing should be adaptable to to Coax, assuming they left the cable to their devices.
posted by delmoi at 8:42 PM on May 30, 2008

Vendetta never ends. Let it go before it begins.
posted by owhydididoit at 10:23 PM on May 30, 2008

If you are actually out-of-pocket more than what Comcast has compensated you, small claims court will probably do the trick.
posted by toomuchpete at 11:09 PM on May 30, 2008

The cable company has done the right thing by you; I'd let it go with them. However, I would definitely advise your landlord about this theft of services by the downstairs tenants. If they have tried it once with electricity, again with cable, they're as likely to try and screw the landlord, too. It would be nice to give the landlord a heads-up about the continuation of the lower tenants' behaviour. An eviction by the landlord would be something you'd probably ultimately benefit from.
posted by Savannah at 11:27 PM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

If I even vaguely knew the neighbors and thought they would respond in a neighborly way, I'd ask them if they've had any problems with their cable, because someone was messing with your line, and it caused problems with your connection / bill / internet.

They may be freeloaders, but they probably don't want to cause you any grief [*]

* If, on the other hand, they seem like the types that wouldn't care if you had problems or not, then just skip this step and let Comcast deal with it.
posted by zippy at 12:34 AM on May 31, 2008

"First off, you cant steal cable in Chicago. Comcast encrypts their signal and you will need a box even for their most basic of service."

That's not true yet. Comcast only started sending out DCT700s to begin converting analog customers a few months ago. I'm still able to get channels on our Slingbox directly through coax.

"the idea of a freeloading neighbor getting your tv package is a little paranoid"

I don't care if the neighbors sit in their apartment and mooch off my Starz. However, I do care when I can't sit in my apartment and get my work done because the cheapskates below us couldn't pick up coax rated for outdoor use. Call me paranoid.

"Comcast is a terrible company and if you had such problems you should have moved to their competitor."

As others have pointed out, the problems weren't caused by Comcast, who has been helpful.
posted by hitopshelf at 5:17 AM on May 31, 2008

I'd just make sure Comcast was going to tell the landlord. Without knowing more about your relationship with the landlord, it's tough to give further advice. Knowing me, I'd be tempted to also go knock on the door and ask them to stop stealing from me or I'll call the police, but as lots of folks have mentioned, if you do that you should be prepared for an escalation you probably don't want. Hopefully I'd stop myself.

Make sure the landlord knows, and make sure s/he hears your displeasure at living above tenants who have now stolen twice from you, and your resolve to go to the police if it happens again.
posted by mediareport at 5:41 AM on May 31, 2008

CrayDrygu, I wasn't talking about blame, I was talking about compensation. If the neighbour is to be punished, it's Comcast's job to do it. If the OP is to be compensated, that's Comcast's job too. (Especially as the OP is looking for compensation for time and money expended after Comcast failed to find the cause on their first visit)
posted by winston at 5:55 AM on May 31, 2008

The problem here is your neighbors. They have already tried to shift payment for their electricity onto you; now they have done the same with cable. I would do the following:

(1) Obtain some kind of documentation from Comcast verifying that your neighbors were stealing your cable. If possible, this should include some approximate dollar amount that it cost you.

(2) Send a note to your landlord explaining the situation, with a copy of the documentation.

(3) If you are on good terms with your landlord, you might want to have a friendly chat with them in which you point out that your neighbors have a track record of doing this sort of thing.

I suggest this course of action, because it seems prudent to me to establish a paper trail regarding your neighbors' behavior. There is no need to directly confront them, nor do you need to demand any particular action from your landlord (yet). However, in the not unlikely event that they do someything similar in the future that would demand some sort of action, you now have documentation that they have a pattern of behavior that is un-neighborly/illegal.
posted by googly at 6:08 AM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Actually if its from the drop then its they are stealing from you. Her eon long island cablevision considers the drop part of your house . I dont know if comcast is different.

It sounds like they placed a splitter at the house end of the drop so that means they were stealing from you not comcast.
posted by majortom1981 at 9:35 AM on May 31, 2008

Make sure you don't have any open water spigots outside that is paid for and attributed to your apartment. Also, encrypt your WiFi. And just for the hell of it, maybe get a locking gas cap on your car(s) and don't leave any doors or windows open.

A thief is a thief.
posted by jerseygirl at 12:16 PM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

winston: "CrayDrygu, I wasn't talking about blame, I was talking about compensation."

I'm amazed that you're making the distinction. Aside from the fact that Comcast already offered compensation (as stated in the original post), I personally don't believe in asking for compensation from anyone who doesn't carry blame.
posted by CrayDrygu at 2:16 PM on May 31, 2008

I would at least walk over there and ask "WTF?"
posted by P.o.B. at 3:10 PM on May 31, 2008

[comment removed - no revengefilter answers please, thanks]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:44 PM on June 1, 2008

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