Monday, May 02, 2011

USA - N Carolina legislation would ban "adult" content on municipally funded networks

[salisbury post] An amendment to a proposed law about community broadband could ban adult programming from city-owned systems like Fibrant.

The N.C. Senate was debating House Bill 129 Thursday when a senator from Hendersonville introduced an amendment prohibiting city-owned communications networks from providing adult entertainment channels as part of a video programming service.

Fibrant has nine adult pay-per-view channels. Greenlight, a similar fiber-to-the-home system owned by the city of Wilson, has about a dozen. The amendment would not affect private providers that offer adult programming.

N.C. Sen. Andrew Brock, R-Rowan-Davie, said the amendment had support on the Senate floor, and he plans to vote for it if given the opportunity. Debate over the amendment, which was tabled, and several other proposed changes to the legislation stalled the bill. It was pulled from consideration until Monday.

For a bill known as “Level Playing Field” to ban adult programming from city-owned networks but not their private competitors would be unfair, said Dathan Shows, assistant city manager for broadband and technical services for Wilson.

Broadband cities like Salisbury and Wilson that market a triple play — Internet, phone and cable TV services sold together for a discount — must offer the same content as private providers, Shows said.

“If you are going to have a pay-per-view system, you need to have adult content to be competitive with other providers,” he said.

Pay-per-view systems are expensive for providers to set up and run, Shows said.

“Adult content is more lucrative than non-adult content, so that helps pay for Disney-on-demand and other pay-per-view channels,” he said.

Without adult channels, a pay-per-view system probably could not cover its cost, he said.

Greenlight, which launched in 2007 and has about 5,700 customers, is on track to make about $150,000 this fiscal year from video on demand. About half of that revenue comes from adult programming, which customers can completely block, Shows said.

Fibrant, which launched in November, has about 760 customers. Salisbury officials did not answer questions about how much revenue adult channels have generated for Fibrant.

Brock said it is wrong for a city to provide pornography on a government-owned system.

“As a taxpayer, I am a shareholder of the government,” Brock said. “And as a shareholder of the government, I don’t want my government doing that.

“If I was a shareholder of Time Warner Cable, I wouldn’t want them doing that, either.”

Cities that regulate adult entertainment on their streets should also regulate it on their broadband systems, Brock said.

The amendment was sponsored by Republican N.C. Sen. Tom Apodaca, who could not be reached for comment. Apodaca is the primary sponsor in the Senate of the Level Playing Field bill.

Bill would outlaw adult content on city networks

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