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5.1 Provisioning (Activation)

Please note that the following information applies mostly to DOCSIS systems only. I do not know how other cable systems work, only the one I work in.

Usually, if the cable modem is being installed by a technician, when he arrives at your residence, he calls his dispatcher and tells him or her the HFC MAC address of your modem. If you look at your cable modem, you will see a string of numbers on it somewhere starting with 00-90, 00-20, 00-00, or something similar. (Those numbers vary with the manufacturer of the modem).

If you are doing a self install, you are usually instructed to call your cable company and read the number off to them. They then bind it to your account and activate it.

Every cable modem manufactured has a unique MAC address (just like every network card or network device). This MAC address is bound to your account, and if your account is active, the cable modem is allowed to talk on the network.

After your modem is provisioned or activated, you then hook it up to your cable and plug it in.

(Continue on to Modem Boot Up...)

Feedback received on this FAQ entry:
  • My cable company (Time Warner/Road Runner) representative didn't tell me about activation. He just gave me the modem and a splitter, told me to take it home and connect it and my TV cable box to my incoming cable line, using the splitter, and I'd be all set. Well, that part was easy, but then my modem wasn't allowed to talk on the network. So I connected back to my DSL account (which I'm going to drop) long enough to get on tech support chat with my cable company and they told me what the problem was and how to fix it. I called my cable company (at 8 pm on a Friday evening, but evidently it's available 24/7), worked my way through the voice prompts, got to an actual human, and told her my story. She fixed me up right away. The whole experience was very annoying, though not serious in that the issue was resolved. I wanted to add this to the FAQ in case others experience the same glitch.

    2011-10-02 14:26:37 (FrogProf See Profile)

  • Charter Cable in my home town started using reverse provisioning. When I moved I took my cable modem with me to my new house. When I plugged it into the new house (and a different network segment)a page poped up on my web browser asking me to either enter my account number so the system could see if I was paying for internet service or to click a button to order internet service. Once I completed the reverse provisioning I have not seen this page again. I though this was pretty ingenious. Your site is great, thank you!!!

    2007-11-08 15:54:56



by Raydr See Profile
last modified: 2002-02-27 18:44:53

This really depends on where you live.
Some systems place High Pass Filters and/or Traps on a customer's line if they are not an active HSD customer. This prevents the cable modem from being able to talk back to the head end and/or from receiving a cable modem signal.

If this is the company's ONLY way of protection, and they forgot to put one on your line, then you may be able to hook up a cable modem and surf away.

This is unlikely though.

Most cable companies now authorize your cable modem by serial number and/or MAC address. Attempting to use a non-authorized modem will just end up in your modem being denied access to the network.

Feedback received on this FAQ entry:
  • What must I do to change my ADSL to My.T

    2010-05-01 01:17:50



by Raydr See Profile

No, and here's why:

As far as I know, there are three major ways that cable companies allow cable modems to access their network:

1.) Filters/Traps:
Some cable companies don't care about the MAC address of your cable modem. They prevent your modem from talking back to them by installing a filter and/or trap on your cable line at the tap.

When you get your service activated, they come out and remove whatever they need to.

This is not used often because it's very easy for people to steal cable modem service.

2.) HFC (Cable Modem) MAC Authentication:
In this case, the cable company would authorize your cable modem by it's MAC. Every DOCSIS cable modem has one, and if you look at yours, it should have a sticker with an "HFC MAC". When your modem boots up, it attempts to talk to your cable provider, and the provider will either grant or deny it access based on it's MAC address.

3.) HFC (Cable Modem) AND NIC (Network Card) MAC Authentication:
Some cable companies, for some reason, also authenticate the network card in your computer. First it will authenticate the Cable Modem, and then when your computer attempts to get online, they'll check and make sure that you're still using the same computer/network card/etc that you've always used. If you've changed your network card or installed a router, they will block your access.

I'm not sure exactly why they do this, but I'm guessing that this is partially how they prevent you from sharing your cable modem on a network.

This is also why most routers have a "MAC Address Clone" feature. If you tell your router to clone your network card's MAC Address, it makes your cable provider think that you're still using the same computer/network card to access their services, and therefore they allow your router on the network.

Now, the reason why it wouldn't get you free cable: When you clone an address in your router, you're cloning a NETWORK CARD, not a CABLE MODEM.

The only way you could get free cable modem service this way is by somehow changing the MAC address of the CABLE MODEM to one that has been provisioned (authorized) already. DOCSIS cable modems cannot be modified in this way.

Now that I think about it, if any cable companies out there authenticated by Network Card MAC Address only, and not cable modem, this might work, but I doubt there are any providers out there that dumb.

Feedback received on this FAQ entry:
  • 5.1 Provisioning (Activation) ·How does my provider activate my modem? ·Is there any way to get free cable modem service? ·If I copy a Valid MAC address in my Router could I get free service? How does my provider activate my modem? (#3338) Please note that the following information applies mostly to DOCSIS systems only. I do not know how other cable systems work, only the one I work in. Usually, if the cable modem is being installed by a technician, when he arrives at your residence, he calls his dispatcher and tells him or her the HFC MAC address of your modem. If you look at your cable modem, you will see a string of numbers on it somewhere starting with 00-90, 00-20, 00-00, or something similar. (Those numbers vary with the manufacturer of the modem). If you are doing a self install, you are usually instructed to call your cable company and read the number off to them. They then bind it to your account and activate it. Every cable modem manufactured has a unique MAC address (just like every network card or network device). This MAC address is bound to your account, and if your account is active, the cable modem is allowed to talk on the network. After your modem is provisioned or activated, you then hook it up to your cable and plug it in. (Continue on to Modem Boot Up...) feedback form feedback form Any feedback you provide (corrections, updates or suggestions) are sent to the owner of this FAQ and anyone else involved in writing or editing this item. by Raydr last modified: 2002-02-27 18:44:53 Is there any way to get free cable modem service? (#3378)

    2009-12-01 00:16:00

  • HFC MAC addresses can be modified using modified firmware.

    2009-08-11 04:02:46

  • I work for a cable company and I have a trillithic DSPi. It's a signal meter with a built in docsys 2.0 cable modem; however the modem has two permenant mac adresses, and can spoof mac adresses and cpe mac's. Even though I can clone the mac adress of a cable modem our system only allows one cable modem online at any given time, this means that if you for some reason decided too spend 2500 dollars for a system that can clone mac adresses you would have to offline the modem that you were clonig and then log on with the spoofed mac modem. If you don't the server will just disconect you and your modem will go into a loop finding down stream, up stream, and trying to obtain an IP. I believe that on docsys 1.0 systems you can get an ip on two modems with the same mac at the same time, but I'm not sure about that as I have never worked on a 1.0 system. are there even any 1.0's left or did everyone go 2.0 and 3.0?

    2009-04-10 20:40:04

  • DOCSIS modems (specific models, motorola surfboard 3200,4100,4200 & 5100)actually can have their internal MAC address changed.

    2007-10-31 13:29:16



by Raydr See Profile