Cox Pitches In for Relief Efforts In Tornado-Stricken Oklahoma

Living in Oklahoma, Mark Ellerd has seen his fair share of twisters, and it was that knowledge and some fast thinking that saved the Cox Communications field-services supervisor as a massive twister roared through his Moore, Okla., neighborhood on May 20.

A Cox spokesman told The Wire that last week when Ellerd realized the twister was coming down his street, he grabbed his Bible and a small safe and headed for the nearest shelter he could — his bedroom closet.

“We always thought it was the safest place to go and, as it turns out, it was,” Ellerd, wearing a Cox-logo ball cap, told local station KOKI-TV (Fox 23). “I just laid down on the floor and started hearing it hit and then all of the glass breaking.”

When Ellerd opened his closet door, his bedroom was gone and he could see the hospital across the street in full view.

“I didn’t know if I was gonna die or not, I was kind of scared, praying to God to spare me, and he did,” Ellerd told the TV station. “I’m just glad to be alive.”

The tornado — which at one point, according to reports, was as wide as two miles — ripped a path of destruction through Moore and the surrounding Oklahoma City suburbs, resulting in the loss of at least 24 lives. Thousands in the area were left homeless and headed for shelters set up by the American Red Cross and other relief agencies.

Cox, the primary cable company in the area, supported the relief efforts, setting up two telecommunications centers in Moore where customers could access high-speed Internet, HDTV and local- and long-distance phone services.

Cox parent Cox Enterprises pledged $1 million in recovery funds. Verizon Wireless committed to $100,000 in grants for the relief efforts, and pledged to match employee online donations (from $25 up to $1,000 per employee) to the America Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

Cox also extended rights agreements for its mobile app — Cox TV Connect — to allow TV Essentials and Preferred High-Speed Internet Access customers to watch about 90 channels outside their home network on certain Apple and Android devices. The app is normally available only inside the home, but the company is extending the capability to help connect Cox customers to the content they care about wherever they have sought refuge in the weeks and months ahead.

Cox wasn’t the only cable company to lend a hand. In nearby Shawnee, Okla., which saw a twister rip through its community on May 19 — resulting in one death — local operator BCI Broadband also set up telecom centers to give customers access to the outside world.

BCI also set up a communications café in the Red Cross Center in the local high school within four hours of the storm, providing Wi-Fi, local and long-distance telephone service, and a large-screen TV to entertain displaced families. BCI said it will continue the service until it is no longer needed.

Late Levon Helm Cited In Piracy Protection Plea

The digital piracy issue is often painted in broad strokes — overprotective media giants vs. the fair-use “little guys,” or a modern-day California version of the Civil War between the amassed forces of the North (Sillicon Valley) and the South (Hollywood).

But at a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce event in Washington, D.C., celebrating intellectual-property protection champions — Comcast/NBCUniversal supports the event and efforts to stem the illegal flow of digital content — one of those champions brought the pirating of content to a very personal level.

Jonathan Taplin, director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California, said that when he was fresh out of college he worked for Bob Dylan and The Band. When his friend and Band drummer Levon Helm got cancer, the bills mounted. And while The Band continued to make money from their music long after they broke up in 1976, that money suddenly dried up after the “big sites” like peer-to-peer file sharer Limewire started.

In 2002, when Helm contracted the cancer, he was broke, said Taplin, although The Band’s music was as popular as ever. “He had to go out on the road with stage-3 throat cancer just to pay the bills,” Taplin said.

— John Eggerton

NCTA, NAB Chiefs Agree: It’s a New Golden Age of TV

Broadcast, cable and public-interest witnesses came at the state of video from very different directions at a Senate Communications Subcommittee hearing on May 14, but according to their prepared testimony, there was one thing they all seemed to agree on: TV today is “golden.”

For John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney at Public Knowledge, it is all about the technology. “There is widespread agreement that we are living in a golden age of television,” he said. “Technology has increased people’s choices so they can watch just the shows and movies they are interested in … Computers, smartphones, tablets and connected devices are changing what it means to watch TV.”

Calling this a “Golden Age of Video,” National Cable & TelecommunicationsAssociation president Michael Powell had a six-point explanation for why he thinks the state of video has never been stronger.

“Consumers today enjoy (1) more content; (2) higher quality programs; (3) more variety and diversity in video content; (4) more sources for video content, offering different types of content in a variety of packages and at a variety of price points; (5) a greatly enhanced capacity to select, manipulate and record video content; and (6) the ability to access video on an increasingly wider range of devices,” Powell said.

National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith said: “Calls for ‘reform’ are in the midst of what I’d consider the ‘Golden Age’ of television. Consumers have been the beneficiary of what is the most competitive video landscape we have ever seen. There are platforms and programming options available that did not exist just a few years ago. Viewers are able to access content when and where they want. Congress has helped to successfully unleash competition, and in turn, it has created the most robust, vibrant video landscape in history.”

— John Eggerton