What is Net Neutrality and How Does it Affect Christians?
Although this article deals primarily with the US side of things, the internet is an international concern and any curtailing or regulation of content, apart from criminal content (which is urgently necessary) would affect us all
The chairman of the US bishops’ Committee on Communications has urged the Trump administration to keep current net neutrality rules in place because an open internet, he said, is critical to the nation’s faith communities and how they interact with their members.
What is Paid Prioritisation?
“Without open internet principles which prohibit paid prioritisation, we might be forced to pay fees to ensure that our high-bandwidth content receives fair treatment on the internet,” said Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont.
“Nonprofit communities, both religious and secular, cannot afford to pay to compete with profitable commercialised content,” he said in a statement.
The concept of an open internet has long been called “net neutrality,” in which internet service providers neither favour nor discriminate against internet users or websites. Neutrality means, for example, providers cannot prioritise one type of content over another, nor can they speed up, slow down or block users access to online content and services.
The current chairman of the Federal Communications Commission announced his proposal to roll back rules on neutrality put in place in 2015 by the Obama administration.
Why is Neutrality Essential?
Bishop Coyne urged that the current rules remain in place. “Strong net neutrality protections are critical to the faith community to function and connect with our members,” he said.
These protections are “essential to protect and enhance the ability of vulnerable communities to use advanced technology, and necessary for any organization that seeks to organise, advocate for justice or bear witness in the crowded and over-commercialised media environment,” Bishop Coyne said.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement that under his plan, “the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet. Instead, the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices.”
Bishop Coyne said: “Robust internet protections are vital to enable our archdioceses, dioceses and eparchies, our parishes, schools and other institutions to communicate with each other and our members, to share religious and spiritual teachings, to promote activities online, and to engage people – particularly younger persons – in our ministries.”
The FCC is scheduled to vote on Pai’s proposal at its monthly hearing. Observers predict the vote will fall along party lines. Chairman Pai is Republican as are Commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O’Rielly. Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel are Democrats.