Louisiana Leg uses Porn Excuse to Target LUS Community Network

We occasionally see big cable and phone companies getting creative in their efforts to shut down community networks. In socially conservative communities, restrictions on providing adult content is a common approach.

This technique came up several times in North Carolina, where TWC-sponsored elected officials proposed disallowing public providers from offering the same adult content channels that private providers offer. The reason has nothing to do with morals, but rather with the substantial revenue adult content generates. Incumbent providers know that if community networks cannot offer adult content to those who wish to purchase it, they will be deprived a significant source of revenue needed to pay the debt from building a modern network.

Bear in mind that no one is forced to see this content or even a scrambled channel (as was common in the "old" days). Community networks allow each family to decide for themselves what content is appropriate -- to the extent community networks differ from private providers in this regard, they provide more tools to filter out content that some may find inappropriate.

Last week, the Louisiana House briefly considered a bill to limit Lafayette's authority to make adult content available to subscribers that request it. House Bill 142 exists solely to put LUS Fiber, an impressive muni FTTH network, at a disadvantage.

John at Lafayette Pro Fiber has excellent coverage of the situation, with both an initial post featuring eyes-a-rollin' as well as an in depth followup "Lafayette delegation kills anti-LUS bill."

LUS Fiber Logo

The latter is essential reading for those new to understanding how any legislature works. And anyone building a network that will compete with big companies like AT&T, Cox, Time Warner Cable, et al. had better know how legislatures work because those companies live in the Leg. Their competitive advantage lies in lobbyists, not providing superior telecom services.

Apparently, the Legislators pushing this bill (on behalf of Cox - there is no other rational explanation) first claimed it was about banning the use of state credit cards from buying adult content (or services) when officials were traveling… but John notes that is already prohibited.

Legislators defending Lafayette (and all the citizens of Louisiana who have suffered enough at the hands of AT&T and Cox) sought a compromise that would have ensured a "level playing field" for adult content by applying the law to all providers equally. This killed the bill. But John wonders if there was something more at play:

Extra Credit: Decide whether the real point of this exercise was purely PR — was it never intended to pass, only to try and lay on LUS (again--this ploy fizzled badly during the fiber fight) the onus of selling "porn?" Or was the hope to impose another long, embarrassing and distracting lawsuit on Lafayette? (This worked pretty well during the fiber fight.)

Community networks and defenders, be prepared for similar fights at a legislature near you.