Comcast Announces Amnesty Program for People Receiving Unauthorized Cable TV Services in Anne Arundel County.
CROFTON, Md., July 13 /PRNewswire/ --
Comcast in Anne Arundel County today announced that beginning July 15, 2000 and continuing through July 30, 2000, the company will implement a cable amnesty program for residents in Anne Arundel County who are illegally receiving cable television services through unauthorized connections or illegal boxes. These individuals will have the opportunity to turn themselves in to Comcast, no questions asked, and avoid legal prosecution by calling 888-375-3243.
Anne Arundel County residents currently receiving unauthorized cable services may choose to either become paying customers over the phone or have the unauthorized service disconnected without facing legal penalties. In addition, residents receiving cable television through unauthorized cable boxes will have the opportunity to turn their boxes into Comcast in exchange for a new box at any Comcast lobby location. At the end of the amnesty program, Comcast in conjunction with law enforcement authorities will aggressively pursue and prosecute any cable thieves who do not take the opportunity to turn themselves in during the amnesty program.
Comcast officials are currently in the process of conducting a house-by- house electronic audit of its cable system to identify cable thieves in Anne Arundel County. As these homes and businesses continue to be identified, the information will be turned over to the appropriate authorities for possible prosecution, which upon conviction could include fines and jail time.
Comcast uses electronic monitoring equipment and its fiber optic capabilities to track and locate cable thieves. Electronic monitoring devices are sent out through Comcast's head-end and field equipment to locate and identify all units receiving unauthorized cable television services. Following the cable amnesty program, Comcast and local law enforcement authorities will move forward with prosecuting and convicting those cable thieves to the fullest extent of the law.
Punishments and legal penalties for those people convicted of cable theft in the past in Maryland have included jail time, fines ranging from $500 to $1,500, community service, and all were placed on probation. The Maryland General Assembly passed a tough anti-cable theft law on October 1, 1993, which strengthened the penalties for cable fraud and made the crime easier to prove.
Cable theft in Anne Arundel County is estimated to cost Comcast millions of dollars in lost revenue. In addition, cable thieves cost Anne Arundel County hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in the form of lost revenue in state and local taxes.
"Cable theft continues to be a growing problem in the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan areas and we hope this amnesty program will give people ample opportunity to become paying customers or have their unauthorized service disconnected to avoid costly legal penalties," said Sharon Stallings, vice president and general manager of Comcast's Chesapeake Bay Group system.
"The State Attorney's office will continue to prosecute those cable fraud cases that are brought to its attention to the fullest extent of the law," said Frank Weathersbee, Anne Arundel County States Attorney. "The State Attorney's office takes the problem of cable theft very seriously and understands the effect cable theft has on lost revenue to our counties and state. Therefore, we support this amnesty program and following the amnesty period, we will move forward with prosecutions of those cable thieves that do not take this opportunity to turn themselves in to Comcast," added Weathersbee.
Any persons currently facing cable theft charges from local authorities are not eligible for the amnesty program. Those persons currently under investigation by Comcast for suspected cable theft are eligible for the amnesty program. The amnesty program does not waive past due balances for paying customers.
Comcast Cable serves more than 1.5 million customers in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. Comcast, whose Mid-Atlantic Division offices are located in White Marsh, Maryland, employs nearly 2,500 people in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.
Headquartered in Philadelphia, Comcast Cable is a division of Comcast Corporation (www.comcast.com), a developer, manager and operator of broadband cable networks and provider of programming content. Comcast Cable is the third largest cable company in the United States. Providing basic cable, digital cable and high speed Internet services, Comcast Cable is the company to look to first for the communications products and services that connect people to what's important in their lives. At the close of 2000, the company's more than 10,000 cable division employees will serve more than 8.2 million customers in six geographic regions.