Net Neutrality: A Brief Christian Reflection

by Kenon O'Dell

So, by now most of you have heard about the decision the FCC made last Thursday with the vote to repeal the regulations protecting “Net Neutrality”. This article was written, not to convince you that the internet is over as we know it, but instead, to inform and to introduce a new perspective in the matter.

“Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) can’t give priority to any website, app or service.”[i] Net neutrality was presented in 2015, under President Obama to introduce the internet as a public utility instead of a product that was controlled under large corporations like AT&T or Verizon. In other words, without the protection of net neutrality, ISP’s can intentionally block, slow down, or charge a fee for any online content that they see fit (no more cats playing instruments on YouTube for free). Some of the thinking behind this decision was that it will create more competition between ISP’s. While that might make some sense, in the same year the FCC has removed limits on how much ISP’s can charge customers and has cut back the low-income broadband program that was designed to eventually expand nationwide.[ii]

So…How will this affect me?

To put perspective on the issue, it’s estimated that Americans spend between five to 10 hours a day on the internet. As a Christian, there’s part of me that thinks, “Hey, at the end of the day it’s just the internet. Maybe, I’ll now use that time more wisely”. While that’s not a terrible perspective on the issue, the problem arises when we realize how much we use the internet to connect with people currently. Even most churches have marketing campaigns and outreaches they use to connect with their communities.

On a more personal note, being the Church, I believe the loss of net neutrality could potentially change the way we interact with each other.

Anyone who has spent any time at all reading comments of your favorite hot topic page knows how toxic people can be when they hide behind an anonymous screen. This attitude bleeds into real relationships and affects all of us. Proverbs 16:28 says, “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.” (ESV) The Church has a unique opportunity to truly connect with people that might be looking for something to fill that Facebook shaped hole. The loss of net neutrality may be an opportunity to minister in new and better ways.

When connecting with people, it is important to be reminded of the potential that we have with one another. Proverbs 27:17 says,” As Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another”. To encourage, to be present in a friend’s time of need, to fight for one another, to worship together: this is the essence of living the Christ centered life.

It is my hope and prayer that the church realizes that they can show compassion rather than using this time to pick political fights with people that might be hurting. Paul writes in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”. I, myself, have fallen prey to being obsessive about the wrong things; politics, movies, the way I like to cook ramen. Some of these things can easily consume our lives and twist our perception of who God wants us to be. I want to encourage all who read this to investigate net neutrality further while focusing on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy.

What will you do?

[i]Fowler, Geoffrey. “The FCC’s net neutrality rules are gone. Now this is what could happen to the Web.” Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/12/13/net-neutrality-keeps-the-web-from-running-like-an-airport-security-line-and-it-might-go-away/?utm_term=.b77bb2aef62c

[ii] Kang, Cecilia. “F.C.C. Repeals Net Neutrality Rules.” The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/14/technology/net-neutrality-repeal-vote.html