Strong net neutrality protections called critical to faith community


WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairman
of the U.S. 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.

“Without open internet
principles which prohibit paid prioritization, 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
commercialized content,” he said in a Nov. 28 statement.

The concept of an open
internet has long been called “net neutrality,” in which internet
service providers neither favor nor discriminate against internet users or
websites. Neutrality means, for example, providers cannot prioritize one type
of content over another, nor can they speed up, slow down or block users access
to online content and services.

On Nov. 21, 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.

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 organize, advocate
for justice or bear witness in the crowded and over-commercialized 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

The FCC is scheduled to vote on
Pai’s proposal at its monthly hearing Dec. 14. 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.

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