OC Inc. pushes net neutrality as FCC vote looms

Faithful-Internet.jpgThe Federal Communications Commission is set to approve rules that ensure a fair and free internet for all people—not just those who can afford paying for premium service. The FCC vote is Thursday, Feb. 26, but Cheryl Leanza, policy advisor for Office of Communication, Inc., is worried that Congress might threaten to block what she expects will be good rules. So she’s encouraging internet users to keep the pressure on.

“We are excited that the tremendous outpouring of public support means that we will see good rules voted on Thursday,” said Leanza. “Now the challenge will be to make sure Congress doesn’t stop the rules. From videos on church web sites to successful social justice activism, the entire faith community relies on a free and open Internet. Protecting this tool means so much more great ministry will take place.”

To help ensure fairness across the internet, Leanza and OC, Inc., the media justice ministry of the United Church of Christ, are advocating against any effort that might lead to pay-for-priority access online through the Faithful Internet campaign.

A project coordinated by the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society and OC, Inc., Faithful Internet is rallying the faith community, encouraging people around the country to contribute their own testimonials, videos, and Facebook posts on why open internet rules are important.

The Rev. J. Bennett Guess, a national officer of the UCC, is one of those faith leaders supporting Faithful Internet.

“The Internet is a public space where each of us has an equal voice—no matter the color of our skin or size of our wallets or the content of our beliefs—to express ourselves, to learn new things, to innovate, to organize, and to connect with one another,” he said.

The UCC has been a media justice advocate for more than 50 years. “Today’s critical media justice fight is about ensuring an open internet for all the people,” Guess said. “The internet is a public space where each of us has an equal voice, and it should be kept that way. Net neutrality matters to ensuring our democracy.”

Net neutrality is the concept of a free and open Internet, aimed at preventing Internet providers from discriminating against the content shared on the Web. 

In May, the FCC opted to open public dialogue on its proposed rules, which came under heavy public scrutiny because they suggested that corporations could pay Internet providers so their content would download or stream faster for users. That would allow companies that provide content, such as Netflix or YouTube, to pay internet giants like Time Warner, Cox or Verizon. It raises concerns about the possibility of two tiers of Internet with fast and slow lanes—affluent companies and homes would enjoy premium service, with everyone else competing for remaining traffic.

During last fall’s OC, Inc. Parker Lecture on Ethics in Telecommunications in October, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, the keynote speaker for the October event, hinted at the significance of the upcoming vote by saying he would treat open-internet rules as “the most important decision of my term.”

“In 2014, opportunity for all requires broadband for all,” Wheeler said.

There is still time to add your voice at www.faithfulinternet.org.

Categories: United Church of Christ News

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