Voltage on analog CATV line

My wife said she felt a small electric shock last night when she touched a fluorescent clamp lamp and the new DVD recorder at the same time. Sure enough, when I got my meter out, there was about 60VAC between the CATV cable's center conductor and the metal frame of the lamp.
There was no voltage reading on the cable between center and shield, but clearly there's something between both the cable's center and sheath conductors (and therefore the DVDR) and the ground.
Where do I start looking for trouble? Is the incoming cable improperly grounded? Is there normally a detectable voltage between the cable and nearby equipment?
Thanks in advance for any pointers.
-- Bobby G.
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This is clearly a problem for the cable company. You shouldn't try to repair it lest they say you caused the problem. Because there is a shock potential, this is a danger and you should get priority service.
Robert Green wrote:

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Thanks for you input, William.
I'd like to understand the problem as fully as I can before I call the cable company. My experience has been that their "first responders" are incapable of serious troubleshooting. I doubt Comcast would provide priority service for anything, anyway. They're a monopoly and they know it and recently, I believe JD Powers recently rated them *below* used car salesmen in trustworthiness. Updating Lily Tomlin for the 00's:
"We don't care, we don't have to. We're the cable company!"
-- Bobby G.
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m Ransley wrote:

Knowing the exact load is far less important than you might think, knowing what is on which circuit is far more important. If you accidentally overload the generator you just pop a circuit breaker on it or worst case stall it, annoying, but not a big deal.
The best thing you can do is map out every circuit in the panel and what is on it normally. In my case I have a full CAD print of the house layout with every outlet, appliance and fixture indicated along with the circuit number it's on. Add in the data for the normal current draw on that circuit and it will make load management very easy.
Generally you'll want to leave all of the lighting circuits on since they typically represent very little load, particularly if you use a lot of CF type lamps. The refrigerator and the circuit that covers your TV would also typically be left on. Only large loads like well pumps, furnaces and window A/C generally require load management.
Pete C.
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<stuff snipped>

have
I clearly said "my experience" so as not to tar cable installers across the nation and to limit my observations to what's actually happened to me and the people I know personally. I'm not sure how you can logically disagree with *my* experience but let's assume you mean your experience has been different.
I have to twist Comcast's arm to send Comcast employees in Comcast trucks instead of freelancers in beat up old station wagons with ladders tied to the top with twine. Insisting on employees and not contractors has eliminated the lower ladder rungs, at least for me, but that doesn't mean the employees I get are their top troubleshooters. I know they exist because I know several friends who have gotten to that level of service (i.e. Here's my cell and home number, call me if the problem's not fixed). But they had to use what I consider "the nuclear option" to get there.

From what I have read about its employees, Comcast's number one concern is to keep them from joining unions . . . I believe they're currently operating under a consent agreement to keep from witchhunting union organizers.

Well, that's the nature of averages, isn't it? Some will be above, some will be below. I'm comparing them to Verizon phone techs, who at least seem to have a coherent "ring" to them. I'm no fan of Verizon, but they usually get it right the first time, are not inclined to take shortcuts and seem to have a consistent level of training both in technical and customer relations techniques. They also come when they say they will come. By comparison, my
own experience, in addition to the JD Powers study, has been that Comcast sends people to work as fast as possible, who have little customer relations training, who can barely speak English, who don't police their jobsites and who are as likely NOT to show as they are for a given appointment time.

Hmm. Maybe in your area. Remember, Comcast is growing like crazy so they've got a staffing problem trying to keep up. In my area, they plug that hole with contract servicepeople who clearly have wildly variable technical, language and people skills. Worse, still, they get paid by the call, not by the quality of the repair. As for dishonesty, when I ask whether their contractors were screened for criminal records, they declined to answer. They now send Comcast employees without being asked, but I leave it to you to wonder whether "Midnight Cable Contractors to Go" screens its employees the way Comcast or Verizon might.
I've watched the contractors work. I downgraded my cable package the last time they raised the rates and the idiot who put the notch filters didn't tighten the connections completely so they had to come again and do it right the second time. They didn't even come back to the house to check the picture after the downgrade. Zip, zip, we're outta here. They leave trash lying around the job site. And if they can get away with simply laying a cable on the ground, they're happy to do it. Oh, and there was the time they shut off my house by mistake because they read the address wrong on the work order. Your local techs may be saints, but that's not been my experience.
Here's what the Washington Post had to say a little while back:
"About 1,300 complaints were filed against Comcast last year, according to Montgomery County's cable office, about a quarter of them involving Internet service. They allege missed appointments, rude employees, long waits before operators answer the phone, and lengthy periods of Internet downtime. But many customers say they have no other options for high-speed Internet service."
As for leaving cables strung over the lawn, I understand that another crew does the burial work, but it seems they should work together because the current system just isn't working. It's easy to see that Comcast's profits increase if they *never* have to bury the cable. Is that their motive? You tell me. I guess the sense I have is that the people they send are happy to do good work if you oversee them like the Pharaoh and can take three days off to allow them to break the first two appointments without notice.
It shouldn't be that way - but it is. And it's the opinion of a number of tech-smart neighbors who suffer with the same service because it's the ONLY service. If cable companies had TRUE competition, they'd change their business practices in a heartbeat. In one nearby county Comcast was forced to agree to serious penalties for missing service appointments (their specialty!) in order to retain the cable franchise. It's no wonder they're fighting so hard to keep phone companies out of the TV business. They know what competition will do to their bottom line. They'll actually have to hire good techs, train them and pay them a living wage!

I'll be sure to keep you posted as to the resolution. First, I want to understand as much as I can about the problem. It could as easily be as much my fault as it is theirs. But I won't know that until I take some meter readings and do some inspection of the cable wiring in my house. That can only serve to help whomever it is they eventually send if I can't manage to fix the problem.
Since you're cable tech, got any suggestions where to start troubleshooting?
-- Bobby G.
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I sure do.....
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On Thu, 25 May 2006 16:11:19 -0400, "Robert Green"

In a calm and polite voice over the phone; just explain, MY WIFE GOT SHOCKED AND MY LAWYER "SAID".....
Oren
"My doctor says I have a malformed public-duty gland and a natural deficiency in moral fiber, and that I am therefore excused from saving Universes."
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<stuff snipped>

In Maryland, Comcast put the governor's wife on their payroll as producer of a little-watched anti-drug cable show for I believe $3K+ an episode. They have similar deals in place for relatives of county council members and other legislators. They know how to provide as little service as they possible can for as much money as they can charge because they're basically a monoply that has stacked the deck against the consumer. They act as if they own the entire state government down to the city councilmen and fear no legal threats whatseover. Don't take my word for it. Here's an excerpt from a recent Washington Post piece:
"Exhibit A is Maryland first lady Kendel S. Ehrlich. Having worked for Comcast as a lawyer (while her husband, then a member of Congress, was on the House telecommunications subcommittee), Mrs. Ehrlich is now producer and host of a little-seen, on-demand talk show on substance abuse. For 16 shows, she is paid an annual salary of $55,000 by Comcast; that's more than $3,400 per half-hour show.
For example, Comcast hired then-Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell's two sons soon after he pushed through a law that opened the door for cable companies to collect millions of dollars in revenue. Mr. Bromwell, by the way, is under indictment for corruption and fraud in a separate case. . . .
The list of others with the right access whom Comcast has placed on the payroll seems to grow longer each day. They include Melanie Miller, daughter of state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.; Wayne K. Curry, former Prince George's county executive; and the wife of P. Michael Errico, a senior official who worked for Mr. Curry's administration."
OK - rant over - Search for "Daddy Comcast" if you want to read more.
All the political reasons aside, I want to know, from my end, as much as I can know about the technical details of the problem *before* I call and they send God only knows who to crawl all over my house and my equipment. We can live without cable for a few days. Maybe even forever.
When push comes to shove, have no fear. I know how to get their attention. "MY WIFE GOT SHOCKED" will indeed be part of the conversation. Thanks for your input, Oren.
-- Bobby G.
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Robert Green wrote:

I would suggest starting by re-measuring it with an older analog meter. Modern digital meters tend to be very high resistance and will measure stray voltages.
You might also check where the cable comes into your home and the first distribution block. It should be grounded there. Make sure it is.
Did you measure for voltage to ground from the lamp and likewise with the DVD? (same advice about the meter types)
--
Joseph Meehan

Dia duit
  Click to see the full signature.
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<stuff snipped>

meter.
stray
I'd dig out the old mirrored scale multimeter if I thought the digital meter was lying. But both my wife and I felt a tingle from touching both the DVR and the lamp. I'd rate it as below the voltage of a ringing telephone line (been there, done that!) but there's definitely voltage present.

first
IIRC, they drove their own pipe into the ground for a ground connection. I am going to take the meter out there and inspect that area next. I've disconnected all the VCR's and TV's from the cable just to make sure that current isn't leaking INTO the cable from some device in my house. So far, there's still voltage on the cable.

No, but I will. I will also try to move all the equipment in question to a different grounded outlet on a different branch circuit. Will advise upon completion.
Dia is Muire duit
-- Bobby G.
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<stuff snipped>

meter.
stray
FWIW, you were right. I did dig out the very, very old "Electronics Measurement Corp. # 103 [Analog] Multimeter (made in Noo Yawk City it's so old - nothing's manufactured in the city (or the US) anymore) and it showed only 8 volts of AC where the digital meter showed 60. So, I'd say there's power on the line, but how much and what it means I can't say yet. It's raining, so that precludes outdoor checking for the moment.
-- Bobby G.
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Such happened to me at one time with faulty neutral connection in power service-drop.
Suggest you call cable company immediately, and do ask if there's a problem with utility connections/wiring/whatever. If so, you might ask that they contact utility immediately. The consequences can be severe. If you have aluminum wiring in any part of the service drop, you'd do well to contact utility now, and ask about intermittent connection of neutral- that should get their attention.
J
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No aluminum wires but I do have an older house whose wiring has clearly been mucked about by amateurs. I'm going to try a little more diagnostic work since the cable's been disconnected from the househole wiring and there's no longer as much of a hazard. I'm also going to switch the DVR and lamp to a different branch circuit close to the panel to see if anything changes.
Thanks for your advice, Barry. It's much appreciated.
-- Bobby G.
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Robert Green wrote:

60VAC is standard CATV line power. It's possible that one of their techs improperly set or forgot to remove / cut power pass jumpers on a line amp somewhere. Call the cable company and they should track it down and fix it.
Pete C.
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a
<stuff snipped>

Thanks, Pete. Since this started after I had complained about a poor signal on channels 4 through 9 it's very likely a tech screwed up. I've been having odd problems ever since then. If it's their fault, I should see that voltage at the network demarcation point outside the building. I'm going to measure the incoming cable disconnected from the house wiring to see if I still see the 60VAC. Then I suppose I'll call Comcast. Or switch to satellite!!!
-- Bobby G.
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