Friday, April 3–Comcast Sues Over Pirated Web Service

OCEAN CITY – Comcast of Eastern Shore last week filed suit in U.S. District Court seeking thousands of dollars in lost compensation and other damages against a Gambrills, Md. man accused of pirating Internet service for several condominium buildings in Ocean City.

Listed in the suit are Frank Clark and his fictitious company OceanNet for unauthorized use of the company’s high-speed Internet service for personal gain. The suit alleges Clark purchased service for an individual account, then used a complex network to supply the service to other unauthorized third parties within the same condo buildings.

In one example described in the suit, Clark utilized a single subscription for Comcast’s high-speed Internet service (HIS) to provide the service to several units at a multiple dwelling unit on Sand Dune Rd. in Ocean City and the surrounding area. The distribution of the service to unauthorized third parties was discovered last September when a Comcast representative conducted an audit and discovered Clark and OceanNet had improperly tapped into the primary service line and connected a Comcast cable modem authorized at another address and his own wireless router, along with antennae to allow him to re-distribute service through the building.

Now, splitting a cable television connection to another TV in the same dwelling or even another unit in the same building has been around as long as there has been cable, just as piggybacking on another person’s wireless Internet service has going on as long as their has been wireless Internet service, but rarely has the illegal activity been carried out so brazenly. Clark’s website claims OceanNet is America’s Number One provider of wireless Internet WIFI systems for the timeshare and condominium market.

The suit filed last week contends an illegal wireless network could conceivably assist a large number of third parties to receive unauthorized service without payment to Comcast.

“The lost cash flow to Comcast resulting from the diversion of its revenue to unauthorized third parties has an adverse impact on its ability to purchase and maintain a high quality of programming services for its subscribers,” the complaint reads. “Furthermore, the maintenance of unauthorized connections to Comcast’s HIS service may result in signal leakage, which could violate FCC regulations as well as cause degradation of Comcast’s signal and other service problems for Comcast’s legitimate customers.”

The suit seeks the actual damages which Comcast suffered from the illegal activity along with any additional profit gained by Clark and OceanNet, or, in the alternative, statutory damages between $250 and  $10,000 for each prohibited sale of residential Comcast HIS service along with enhanced statutory damages of up to $50,000.

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