Drawing on old-school methods to splice cable TV lines for unauthorized use, hackers say they can buy a splitter at the local electronics store and easily run an additional line from the cable modem (news - web sites) line for the computer into the television. Without a set-top box, the result is free, basic, analog cable; with an illegal converter or set-top, hackers say they have access to premium channels such as HBO and Showtime.
"I only get (basic) cable. I don't subscribe; it just comes to my house along with the cable modem signal," said Noah, who wished to keep his last name anonymous. He saves roughly $40 a month on cable but spends about $42 a month on Internet access.
"Lots of people do this if all you want is analog cable," he said. "All cable services are run through the same line; they can't just cut power to analog cable and still give you a cable modem."
Cable operators have battled this form of piracy for years, but it's taking on new urgency in the race to build high-speed Internet service. Broadband providers are struggling with costs, with AT&T just last week instituting a price increase for cable modem customers.