Jim Blair, vice president, risk management and chief risk executive at AT&T Broadband, readily concurs that the risk to the digital side of the telecommunications business isn't all that clear...just yet.
"Frankly," says Blair
, "the digital age for telephone service and high-speed data, from what we can tell at this moment, is (one characterized by) non-theft.That's because it's modem driven at both ends of the circuit.Therefore, we have not found theft in either of those two elements of the service."
Then again, signal theft, like any industry, is driven by economics.Hackers won't bother to break a system until they can profit from it.That means systems typically aren't breached until the majority of the systems have transitioned to digital equipment.
"With regard to digital video, it's too soon to tell," says Blair
."In the cable game, you can't find out until you are 100 percent digital in a market, and we are not, nor is anyone else yet.
"However, we know that in the 100 percent digital world of DBS (direct broadcast satellite) networks, there are significant levels of theft and compromise.That's the reason we saw in February and April silver bullets being sent by the DBS networks to knock out digital boxes or pods that customers were using (illegally)."
Silver bullets are electronic pulses sent to set-top boxes that are designed to help network operators sniff out illegal hook-ups.