Rio: More War on Armed Cable TV Monopoly


Anatel techs watch GatoNet at the scene of an earlier bust of this type. Did death threats to anyone wishing to switch cable providers guarantee 100% market share? And you thought Time Warner Cable was bad.

Polícia Federal desativa central clandestina de TV a cabo na Baixada Fluminense: Federal Police deactivate a pirate cable TV operation in the Baixada Fluminense region of Rio de Janeiro state. Agência Brasil reports.

Given that such operations, known as GatoNet — hooking up illegally to the electricity or some other sort of metered grid is known colloquially as “yanking a cat” (puxando um gato) — tend to be associated with the “militia” protection rackets run by police and firemen, the war on GatoNet seems to be a roundabout way of making a federal case out of the problem of the Comando Azul — “the cops are criminals,” in other words.

Nine such centers were shut down in the Rio de Janeiro last week, and a city councilman was arrested in connection with militia activity, gambling and other illicit business activities.

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Imagine discovering your city councilmember — our Tish James in Brooklyn, for example — lived a secret life as a caped crusader known as Batman, in the company of other parapoliticians known as The Justice League. And that Wonder Woman turned out to be a cafetina.

One Rio militia group demonstrated a degree of what seems like serious chutzpah in the face of such developments by inaugurating a new gambling joint in time for Christmas:

Rio de Janeiro – Agentes da Polícia Federal no Rio de Janeiro promoveram hoje (27) uma operação contra a distribuição irregular de televisão a cabo na Baixada Fluminense, atividade ilícita conhecida como “Gato-Net”. Na região do Parque São José, em Belford Roxo (RJ), foi encontrada uma central clandestina de TV a cabo, com grande quantidade de fios e aparelhos de distribuição de sinais, além de ligações irregulares de cabos com postes de rua.

Federal police aggents ran an operation against irregular distribution of cable TV in the Baixada Fluminense, an illegal activity known as GatoNet. A clandestine cable TV center was discovered in Parque São Jose, in Belford Roxo, with a large quanity of wire and signal-distribution equipment, as well as irregular cable-hookups strung along poles on the street.

Técnicos da Agência Nacional de Telecomunicações (Anatel) acompanharam os agentes da Polícia Federal durante a operação, que contou também com o apoio da Corregedoria da Polícia Militar do Rio de Janeiro. Segundo a PM, existem suspeitas de que policiais militares estariam envolvidos na montagem da central clandestina, mas nenhum criminoso foi encontrado no local.

Technicians from ANATEL (the Brazilian FCC, sort of) accompanied federal agens on the raid, which was supported by the internal affairs department of the state military police. According to the military police, there are suspicions that military policemen might be involved in setting up the GatoNet center, though no criminals were found at the location.

Segundo o gerente regional da Anatel no Rio de Janeiro, Werner Steinert Júnior, as centrais clandestinas de televisão por assinatura são comuns nas regiões mais pobres da Baixada Fluminense. “Normalmente, as quadrilhas conseguem fazer a captura clandestina de sinais de TV vindos de pontos regularizados em residências. Eles utilizam os decodificadores para receber sinais de TV fechada, e depois distribuem o serviço irregularmente”, diz Werner.

According to ANATEL’s regional director for Rio, Mr. Steinert, these clandestine subscription TV operations are common in poorer areas of the Baixada. “Normally, the gangs manage to capture cable TV signal from legitimate residential hookups. They use decoders to receive closed TV signal, then distribute the service in an irregular fashion,” he said.

O gerente regional da Anatel não soube informar como os criminosos tiveram acesso aos equipamentos necessários para montar a central clandestina encontrada em Belford Roxo.

Steinert said he did not know how the criminals got access to the equipment needed to set up the center found in Belford Roxo.

I have read elsewhere that cable TV company employees either feel they do not get paid enough or get made offers they cannot refuse.

Segundo a Anatel, existem mais de 5,2 milhões de consumidores de televisão por assinatura no Brasil. Desses assinantes, cerca de 750 mil são do estado do Rio de Janeiro.

According to Anatel, there are more than 5.2 million subscription TV subscribers in Brazil, and 750,000 in Rio.

A distribuição ilícita de sinais de televisão fechada prejudica aqueles que pagam pelo serviço legalizado. A principal ferramenta de combate às centrais clandestinas, segundo a agência, é a denúncia da população por meio do telefone 0800-33-2001.

Illicit distribution of signal harms those who pay for legal service. The principal weapon for combating black market cable, the agency says, is for people to use the anonymous tip line.

The problem is that GatoNet is very, very reasonably priced, whereas regular cable TV is outrageously, rent-seekingly expensive relative to local wage scales.

And Brazilian cable providers — which Django Reinhardt could count on the fingers of his maimed left hand — do not seem that eager to introduce economies of scale by pricing their service down in order to get a massive boost in their installed user base. They tend to scream Stalinism! when you try to prod them in that direction.

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