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OH: The whole thing stinks

By saveaccess
Created 04/30/2007 - 7:09am

from: The News Herald [1]

The whole thing stinks

Imagine for a moment that there's an emergency at the Perry Nuclear Power Plant in North Perry. Officials need to get information out quickly.

Aside from news media, safety forces likely would turn to local public access channels on cable television. The message would scrawl across the bottom of television screens, alerting people to a problem.

This system also would work in a weather emergency or when other problems arise.

These channels also help keep citizens informed about community events.

But a bill in the Ohio Senate is about to make that a little more difficult.

It stands to hurt municipalities while boosting profits for telecommunications companies.

In its current form, Senate Bill 117 is cloaked as a strategy to boost competition and cut cable TV bills.
The legislation sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Jacobson, R-Dayton, would end the practice of companies negotiating individual agreements with municipalities in favor of a statewide pact.

In simplifying the process, it strips away local control, with the possibility cities, villages and townships
would lose franchise fee revenue and controls of rights-of-way and diminish the audience tuned to local access channels.

Some even contend the bill allows telecommunications companies to "cherry pick," discriminating against some communities, while working with others.
The current process is working.

"Mentor's passage of the Video Competition Agreement proves that the state bill is not needed," city Public Information Officer Kathie Pohl said of an agreement with AT&T.

Local governments have cherished local access channels because they're a convenient tool to communicate with residents.

Yet, this bill would move local access channels further up the TV dial and require consumers to acquire digital cable. By forcing consumers to purchase a more expensive package to continue to receive local access channels, cable TV companies pad profits.

That's a disservice to anyone who can't afford digital cable and local governments, who are vulnerable in an emergency.

There's time to amend this bill, however, so local control won't be a thing of the past.

Local governments must fight to preserve what they've had, and we support them in that endeavor.

┬ęThe News-Herald 2007

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