Cox plots wireless launches; ESPN takes slapshot at Comcast, NHL

> Cox Communications will launch mobile wireless service in three markets--Hampton Roads, Va., Omaha and Orange County, Calif.--in time for the holiday season, according to A harbinger of the rollout came as Cox opened retail stores in markets where mobile will roll out--including Phoenix, which has not yet been targeted as a launch site but which will "eventually" become a Cox mobile wireless market, according to spokesman David Grabert. Story.

> ESPN is apparently taking a shot at a new goal: carrying NHL hockey. To get there, the Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) sports programming and entertainment channel will have to go through Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), which holds the rights with its Versus channel and which will soon have discussions with NHL chieftain Gary Bettman about renewal. If ESPN scores the hockey rights, which Versus acquired in 2005 and renewed in 2008, it could then go after another future Comcast property: NBC's Olympics coverage. Strangely enough, Versus pulled in 5 percent more advertising dollars in 2009, climbing to $107.4 million, with the hockey package. Story.

> Maybe this has something to do with cord cutting; maybe it doesn't, but a report prepared by the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Economics and Statistics Administration said overall broadband subscriptions among American households grew sevenfold between 2001 and 2009. It's likely this has less to do with broadband content and more to do with broadband availability which, the report said, is still significantly lacking. Story.

> Speaking of the feds, Texas Republican Joe Barton, who has his eyes on chairing the House Energy and Commerce committee, said one of his top priorities in that post would be to block the FCC from any sort of broadband reclassification because "it is imperative that we maintain the freedom of the Internet." He also promised "aggressive oversight of the FCC." Story.

And finally... there are alternatives to going over-the-top for cable programming--they're just not legal. A Charleston, W.Va. woman found that out when she was allegedly caught watching Suddenlink cable TV even after her service was disconnected--several times. Story.