Falcon Black-Box Hunt Angers Subs


Consumers in Santa Clara County, Calif., have complained to
the district attorney's office, as well as to municipal regulators, about audit teams
hired by Falcon Cable TV Corp. that subscribers believe gained entrance into their homes
on false pretenses.

Al Weger, deputy district attorney in the county, confirmed
that he is investigating the complaints. He stressed that he's not sure that any
crime has been committed, but he added that he has contacted Falcon corporate executives,
asking them to explain themselves.

'There are a lot of upset people ... I just want
Falcon's side,' Weger said.

Falcon executives did not return calls seeking comment.

The complaints came from homeowners in the central
California communities of Gilroy, Morgan Hill and others. They were visited by employees
of Signal Audit Services, who were checking homes for so-called black boxes, but who
gained entrance, according to consumers, by stating that they were looking for 'RF
signal leakage.'

Gilroy resident Everette Clark made the first complaint.
The retired United Airlines aircraft inspector said, 'You don't check for RF
leakage that way ... I thought that they were casing my house for a robbery.'

Clark has a legal cable connection, but he made the
complaint to the district attorney because the cable auditors were not honest, he said.

But Clark and city officials conceded that consumers
wouldn't care so much if this wasn't the latest perceived offense by the

Falcon offers fewer channels than systems in nearby
communities. And the operator recently raised its rates. In Gilroy, basic went from $22.63
per month to $23.34, and its tier rose from $6.66 to $7.40. Reports to the city from
Falcon showed that less than 45 percent of calls in November were answered in under two
minutes, and that service outages are common, the city said.

Falcon and SAS notified cities and police departments of
their activities, regulators confirmed. But now, the municipalities told the cable company
that they approved of the sweep, but not the tactics.

Residents didn't like the teams showing up
unannounced, and they complained that the auditors were aggressive about gaining access,
said Jim McCann, Gilroy's public-information coordinator.