TUCoPS :: TV, Cable, Satellite :: rfcatv.txt

Free basic cable using signal leaks!

                        |          Cable TV          |
                        | and The Black Art of Radio |
                        |       by Thomas Icom       |

Chapter I:
                    Wireless Reception of Cable TV Signals
                       How to Get Free Cable TV Legally

     The difference between cable TV and regular TV can be seen in cable TV's
"official" name, Community Antenna Television (CATV).  Basically, with CATV,
the cable company installs a TV antenna, and a satellite dish at a good
receiving location somewhere (they call this place a "head-end"), and then
re-transmits the TV signals over cable to customers' homes and businesses.
     CATV systems use frequencies between 108-400 Mhz. to send their extra
channels through the system.  The mid-band (channels 14-22) is between 108-174
Mhz., super-band (23-36) is between 200-290 and hyper-band (37-53) is between
290-400 Mh. (These ranges are approximate.)  To keep the CATV signals from
interfering with the regular services on those frequencies. the cable company
must keep leakage from their system down to an absolute minimum.  This is
easier said than done, and no matter how hard they try, CATV systems still
leak to some extent, however minimal it may be.
     With equipment available from your local Radio Shack along with your TV,
you can pick up low-level CATV signal leakage and get free CATV service
without having to pay an installation fee or monthly service charges.  This is
all perfectly legal because you (currently) have the right to receive radio
signals that come onto your domain, and in all reality the cable TV company
shouldn't be letting these signals leak out of their system to begin with.
When attempting this you should be aware that if your cable TV company is
competent, you might not find an area in your neighborhood's outside plant
that has enough leakage to get a good signal.  Also, the way the government
has been acting lately, one never knows when they might decide people who
experiment with low-level RF signal reception are a threat to society.  If
such a thing does occur, make the necessary preparations before one of those
UH-60 Blackhawks full of men with MP5SD3s lands on your lawn to bring you into
"protective custody".

How to Do It(!):

     Your wireless CATV reception station will need the following:

- Fringe reception TV antenna

- 10-20 db gain TV reception amplifier.  Preferably one with an amplifier
  module that mounts near the antenna and a remote power supply.  The two
  piece models offer better amplification as they amplify the signal before it
  gets noise from going through the coax.

- Cable TV converter box

- Cable descrambler for your system, if you want to receive "premium"
  channels (optional)

- television (obviously)

- Good quality RG-6 (or better) coax cable with connectors and 75-300 Ohm
  transformer if your TV doesn't have a 75 Ohm antenna input

- TV antenna mast and other materials for mounting the antenna on your roof

The system is put together as follows:

       |     AMP    CABLE
        (If 2 pc. AMP)

     If your CATV descrambler is also a converter, then put it where the CABLE
CONV. goes.  If it is one of those types that descrambles channel 3 from a
separate converter than hook it up in this fashion:


     Once you have your system put together you have to find a leak to receive
off of.  The cable companies find leaks by driving down the road with a field
strength meter.  You can do this by walking under the cable and stopping where
you see a peak on the meter.  You can get a field strength meter for under $50
at Radio Shack.  However, unless you use a tuned field strength meter you will
also register any strong RF source.  If you have a portable TV such as a Sony
Watchman, you can tune to a channel that you normally won't receive and walk
around until you get reception.
     On a side note, many of those portable TVs that use an analog tuning dial
(as opposed to a channel selector knob) often are able to receive mid-band
cable channels without a converter box.  (The Sony Watchman Model FD-10A can.)
To check if your portable TV can do this, examine the TV's VHF (Ch. 2-13)
tuning selector.  The mid-band capable TV's have only 1 band for VHF
selection.  To get mid-band with these TV's, simply tune between channels 6
and 7.  You will also be able to pick up various types of voice commo from 88-
174 Mhz, although the selectivity and sensitivity on portable TV's suck for
picking up narrow-band FM voice.  You might fare better getting in some of the
stronger FM broadcast stations on 88-108 though.
     When looking around for a good CATV leak, check under junction boxes
where the main line is tapped to run cable drops to subscribers.  They often
degrade from being exposed to the elements.  Also check around the homes of
neighbors who you feel might have added extra CATV extensions to their houses
wiring plant.  If they have an antenna on their roof, then chances are they
took the wiring plant that was hooked up to their antenna, and hooked it up to
the cable system.  The cable company generally uses good quality (expensive)
materials when installing cable in someone's house.  Most people when
extending their system go to a department store or Radio Shack, and buy the
cheapest (low quality) stuff they can find.  This often leads to CATV leakage.
Usually, the CATV company doesn't notice the leakage from a home unless it is
really severe, as their detection equipment consists of a field strength meter
and a 1/4 wave antenna.  And since their readings are taken while going 40 MPH
down a road, the signal from inside a house set back xxx feet from the road is
usually not strong enough for them to take notice.  You on the other hand, are
using an antenna that has 100 times more gain than theirs, and are amplifying
the signal your antenna picks up even more.
     Once you've found a leak, aim your antenna at it.  You should then be
receiving free cable TV.  The reception may not be perfect, but what do you
expect for nothing?  To get better reception, try one or more of the

1. Position your antenna closer to the source of the leak

2. Use a higher gain (bigger) antenna

3. Use a more powerful amplifier

     If your leak still isn't adequate or you haven't found one at all, then
use the following technique.  Be careful with this one, as it will royally
piss off the cable co., FCC, FBI, FAA, NSA, PUC, and your local chamber of
commerce if you're cable co. happens to a member.  Not to mention that if you
get caught, you could be charged with vandalism, theft of services and
possibly sedition.  You'll need the following:

- straight pin

- 8-10 foot length of magnet wire (length not critical)

- "liquid black tape", Newskin (liquid bandage), or similar spray-on
  insulator material

- soldering iron and solder

- crazy glue

     To start, solder one end of the length of magnet wire to the blunt end of
the straight pin.  Then apply the insulator material to the straight pin,
except for the pointed end.  Let the insulator dry.  The insulation on the pin
is the important part, as it is needed to prevent you from accidently shorting
out your neighbors cable line.

        | ^-solder here                 ^-magnet wire
        |<-apply insulating material
        ^-leave tip clean

     When that's done take assembly and crazy glue over to your neighbor that
has cable TV.  Find a nice run of coax and push the pin in.  Make sure the tip
has good contact with the center conductor of the coax.  Then unroll the
magnet wire and crazy glue it to the coax in a way that it won't be
     What you just did was add an antenna to your neighbors cable.  You will
now be able to enjoy the use of your wireless cable TV setup.  The main
problem with this setup is that the resulting "leak" will most assuredly be
noticed by the cable co. who will come over and inspect everything.  Your best
bet is to install this device during the early evening and remove it the next
morning before the repair crews hit the road.  This way, it is less likely to
be detected, unless your cable co.'s repair crews work at night.

Chapter II:
                      How to Piss Off Your Cable Company
                     and Give Your Neighbors Free Cable TV

     Radio Shack sells a device which will enable you to do just that.  It
will also let you use any standard TV for cable reception without having to
purchase separate converters for each TV, or run coax.
     Go to R.S. and pick up a Model 15-1281 Cable TV Block Converter.  This
handy little device will take your mid and super band channels and convert
them to UHF TV broadcast band frequencies.  Hook it up to your cable system,
and attach a good UHF TV antenna to the "TO UHF" f-connector.

                             !    RS 15-1281     !
                             !                   !
                             ! CABLE   TO    TO  !
                             !  IN     VHF   UHF !
                             !   *      *     *  !
                     To Cable    !            !       To UHF
                     System------+            +------ Antenna

     It is important that you use a good high gain antenna or you will not get
any range.
     What you are doing is taking the cable channels 14-36 and retransmitting
them over the normal UHF TV channels.  This way, any non-cable compatible TV
can receive them.  The range isn't too great though.  Expect about 300 feet or
so under ideal conditions.  Antenna type, height, placement, and the receiver
set-up will have a lot to do in determining your range.  There's a lot of
possibilities for the experimenter here.  Optionally, you might also want to
contemplate adding a small 1-5 watt amplifier to the UHF output (Get the info
from The Motorola RF Devices Manual, available for free from Motorola.  Call
your local rep. for info.)

The End

     If you have any questions, you can contact me on the following BBSes:

Landfill - 914-HAK-VMBS
Uncensored - 914-761-6877
The Implosion - 914-762-6954
Blitzkrieg - 502-499-8933 NUP: Columbian Coke
Dark Shadows - 203-628-9660

     I'll be u/ling more updated info to these boards as I get it, as well as
printing it in Cybertek: The Cyberpunk Technical Journal.  For those of you
who are unaware, Cybertek is a hardcopy newsletter which covers practical
aspects of technology and survival.  Get a photocopy from someone who has it,
or get a subscription for $15 (6 issues) by writing to:

P.O. Box 64
Brewster, NY 10509


     Although this g-file is for educational purposes only and should not be
construed as a suggestion to commit illegal acts; I have a feeling that the
establishment doesn't give a shit about the bill of rights.  That being the
case, I suggest everyone follow standard C.Y.A. guidelines.  Remember, freedom
only exists for those who choose it.

Please distribute this g-file (intact) by any means available.
-Mr. Icom 7/18/92

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