Thinking inside the box

When disaster struck on Sept. 11, millions of employees were stuck at work, clueless about what was happening because their companies didn’t have a television, let alone CNN coverage.

The tragedy of that day compelled Rick Briggs to fill a need he’d spotted long before Sept. 11.

“We’d known for a few years that there’s a need for news in the business environment, but in many cases there was no economical way to make it work,” says Briggs, president/owner of Stellar Private Cable Systems Inc. in Akron.

The problem is, says Briggs, many offices are situated in a concrete jungle or large building with no access to cable TV or a television antenna system.

“Back then, we’d have to install 10-foot and 12-foot satellite antennas on top of skyscrapers to bring cable into offices,” says Briggs, who established his cable design and installation firm in 1992. “That was challenging, and very expensive.”

Now, leveraging the advent of the digital satellite and developments in computer technology, Briggs is launching a new division to offer companies some intriguing — and affordable — choices.

Essentially, companies can have a 24-inch heated commercial satellite antenna installed, and subscribe to a commercial office viewing package with multiple options. For example, companies can have a TV located in one common viewing area, or a mini-cable system with TV jacks in multiple offices. But the most intriguing alternative enables employees to view TV news on their computer monitors.

Briggs says Stellar designs a coaxial wiring system to accommodate each computer station, and installs a special video card with multiple inputs in each computer. This allows a TV signal, HDTV or other video input to be viewed on the computer monitor while the employee simultaneously works on the computer.

Using a special remote or the keyboard, the user can change channels, and the TV image can be sized as a small viewing window at the bottom corner of the monitor or as full-screen background. Other features include record, pause and instant replay.

“These features are particularly beneficial for those involved in the financial markets and marketing,” says Briggs, noting that his firm recently installed such a system for McDonald Investments in Hudson, Charles Schwab in Richfield and Fox Sports Ohio in Broadview Heights.

Briggs says a typical office chooses a half-dozen or more channels, such as C-SPAN, CNN, CNBC, The Weather Channel, Fox News, Court TV, Newsworld International, Fox Sports Net and ESPN. However, management can designate which channels are available to employees.

Still, one wonders what will happen to workplace productivity.

“I’m not sure what this will do to our gross national product,” Briggs jokes, “but if productivity does suffer, the entire system can be turned off and activated only during high news activity.” How to reach: Stellar Private Cable Systems Inc., (330) 633-7770

Speed matters

While you were channel surfing, the trend toward high-speed Internet access intensified in office environments.

“If you don’t have a high-speed cable connection or a DSL line, you can get a high-speed Internet connection from the 24-inch commercial satellites we’re installing for the office cable television viewing packages,” says Rick Briggs, president/owner of Stellar Private Cable Systems Inc. in Akron.

Briggs notes that employing one multifaceted solution is more cost-effective than piecing together services component by component from several individual vendors.

“It ties together well because when we do the computer network and add the video, we can incorporate the high-speed satellite connection at the same time,” he says.