Glenn R. Jones, a cable industry and distance education pioneer and founder of Jones Intercable and several other technology and media-focused companies, died Tuesday morning, it was announced. He was 85.
“On behalf of the Jones International team, I am deeply saddened to share that Glenn R. Jones passed away this morning,” Stacey Slaughter, CEO of Jones/NCTI, said in a statement issued on behalf of the Jones International family. “Glenn was a man before his time. He transformed the communications, information, entertainment and educational landscape by bringing cable television into millions of American homes. He freed higher education from the brick walls of traditional universities by bringing learning to people in their own homes, first via cable and later through the Internet and mobile devices. While the word visionary is often overused, it’s a perfect description for Glenn. He leaves a tremendous legacy for our Jones companies and for the industries he served.
“Many of us worked side-by-side with Glenn for 20 years or more. He never retired. The businesses he created were his life’s passion. Jones/NCTI and the Jones International family celebrate Glenn’s countless contributions and honor his memory in continuing his vision for both the industry and our global community.
“All of us in the Jones family would like to say the heartfelt words to Glenn that he said to so many of us, ‘Although you may leave us, you will always belong.’”
Information about services will be forthcoming.
Jones was often referred to as a “poet of technology” during a decades-long career that spanned multiple facets of cable operations, distance education, tech training, software, Internet technologies, and radio and TV entertainment.
In 1961, after graduating from the University of Colorado School of Law, Jones launched his cable career by representing cable companies in their acquisition efforts, and, in 1964, put his law career on hold to run for the U.S. Congress in Colorado’s First Congressional District (Denver). After an unsuccessful run, he decided to renew his focus on the cable television industry.
In 1967, Jones borrowed $400 against his Volkswagen to purchase his first cable system in Georgetown, Colo., which led to the rise of Jones Intercable, a one-time top-ten U.S. cable operator that was the first to organize public limited partnerships to raise capital for cable acquisitions.
Jones Intercable was sold to Comcast in April 1999, but Glenn Jones kept his hand close to cable operations in the mid-2000s when he acquired NCTI and formed Jones/NCTI, a Centennial, Colo.-based provider of training for cable, broadband techs and customer service reps, which recently struck a partnership with CableLabs to develop training and course content for DOCSIS 3.1, an emerging multi-gigabit platform for HFC networks.
In the mid-1990s, Jones launched Jones Cyber Solutions, a maker of customer management software for telecommunications companies, including a flagship product called Intelligent Customer Support Systems (ICSS) that supports multiple services, including telephony, mobile, pay TV and Internet.
Jones also held a strong passion for distance education. In 1987, Jones founded Mind Extension University (ME/U)*, a distance learning division that also featured a cable channel that was later renamed Knowledge TV. Before being sold to the Discovery Channel in 1999, Knowledge TV had approximately 50 million subscribers worldwide.
As Internet adoption started to spread in the 1990s, Jones launched Jones International University (JIU), which, in 1999, became the first fully online university to receive accreditation from a nationally recognized regional accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission, a member of the North Central Association. JIU, once billed as “The University of the Web,” began to offer classes in the spring of 1995, and awarded its first graduate degree in 1997. JIU announced in April 2015 that it would shut down and allow enrolled students to transfer their studies to another online university, Trident University International.
Jones also authored books about his vision for distance learning and online education, including Make All America A School and Cyberschools: An Education Renaissance. Other published works of his include Free Market Fusion and multiple volumes of Briefcase Poetry of Yankee Jones.
Among Jones’ other education-focused initiatives was Jones Knowledge Group, which developed an online course management and delivery platform, and Jones eGlobal Library, a customized online research library including annotated research guides, reference assistance, a confederated search engine, and career development resources. In 1995, he founded the Global Alliance for Transnational Education (GATE), a global accrediting body and forum for government, academic, accrediting agencies, students, and businesses to discuss and implement quality assurance for education and training programs across national borders. He served as chairman until August, 2003, when he donated GATE to the United States Distance Learning Association.
On the entertainment front, Jones also formed Jones Media Networks, a network content and e-commerce company that developed programming for radio, television, cable TV networks, and the Internet. Jones Radio Networks, a subsidiary of JMN, was a leading independent provider of programming to radio stations globally. Jones MediaAmerica, a radio, cable TV network, and Internet advertising representation firm in New York, was also a part of the JMN family of companies, along with Jones TM, a music production and distribution company. In 2008, Jones sold all of the JMN companies to Triton Media Group.
In 1995, Jones created Great American Country, a 24-hour country music video cable TV network that reached 34 million homes when it was sold to E.W. Scripps Company in 2004.
Through Jones Entertainment Group, Jones also produced award-winning documentaries and motion pictures such as The Mystery of Genius, The Secret of Roan Inish, The Story Lady starring Jessica Tandy, The Whipping Boy, starring George C. Scott, and The Little Kidnappers, starring Charlton Heston.
Jones is also a former member of the board of directors for the NCTA, and also served on its executive committee. Additionally, he served on the boards of C-SPAN, The Cable Center, the National Alliance of Business (NAB), the Colorado Institute of Technology (CIT), the Colorado Governor's Commission on Science and Technology, and the Board of Governors for the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).
Jones was also a founding member of the James Madison National Council, a select, private advisory body to the Library of Congress, and served on its steering committee and as Chair of its Education Committee. He also served on the Advisory Board for the Columbia Institute of Tele-Information at Columbia Business School. Locally, he served on the Board of the Denver Area Council, Boy Scouts of America and on the Education Committee for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. He is also an honorary lifetime trustee of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.
Jones earned an undergraduate degree in economics from Allegheny College, then served in the U.S. Navy. In the Navy he served as an officer in the Pacific Amphibious Assault Unit and as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officer.
Industry execs and organizations have begun to pay their respects to the loss of the cable pioneer and entrepreneur
"ACA is very sorry to learn of the passing of Glenn Jones, a recognized cable pioneer whose entrepreneurial spirit inspired so many to pursue careers in the cable TV industry. Cable continues to innovate and invest in new technology because people like Mr. Jones showed long ago that cable operators had an obligation to exceed their customers' high expectations and their own. Mr. Jones will be missed by all who knew him but his legacy will live on. ACA would like Mr. Jones' family members to know that they are in our thoughts and prayers on this very sad occasion."
--American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka
“NCTA mourns the passing of Glenn Jones, one of our industry’s great innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders. "We deeply appreciated Glenn’s service to our industry through his time on the NCTA Board and his heartfelt support for many of cable’s diversity, leadership, and professional development organizations. He was both predecessor and precursor to today’s high-tech entrepreneurs, investing virtually all his energy and resources in consumer-focused cable distribution, content, and technology ventures for more than five decades. Glenn helped build the foundation for today’s forward-looking cable and telecommunications industry, and he did it with the soul of a poet and the mindset of a journeyman. His insight, enthusiasm, and spirit will be greatly missed.”
--National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Michael Powell
"Glenn was a true entrepreneur who never, never gave up. He was a key part of the industry success dating back into the ’70s. Along with many other successful ventures he founded Jones Intercable which became a leading MSO. Jones Intercable was one of the largest NCTC members until it was sold. He started many companies based on his gift of seeing long term trends. He was a kind, thoughtful and energetic leader. On a personal note I started my career in the industry with Glenn and will be forever grateful for all his teachings and encouragement,”
--National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) President and CEO Rich Fickle
“I affectionately referred to Glenn Jones as the “Cable Poet” because he was such a unique and multi-talented individual. Just like all of the great cable pioneers, Glenn possessed an unwavering resolve to build our industry into something great. After 32 incredibly successful years at Jones Intercable, Glenn followed his entrepreneurial instincts and poured his creative talents into a number of other highly successful ventures. I am truly honored to have called Glenn a friend for so many years. My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”
--Mediacom Communications CEO Rocco B. Commisso
“Glenn was a lifelong innovator, entrepreneur and leader. He is respected for his founding role in our industry and as a catalyst who brought big ideas to life. He helped extend cable television and then broadband to American homes and paved the way for online learning, connecting people to new opportunities and information. He will be missed and his contributions will continue to make an impact for generations.”
– Cox Communications President Pat Esser
*The author of this article was an employee of Jones Education Networks and ME/U from 1994 to 1998, and took several courses from JIU.