Christian media oppose FCC Internet ruling

by Diana Chandler, posted Friday, February 27, 2015 (3 years ago)

NASHVILLE (BP) -- Christian media representatives are encouraging voters to ask Congress to overturn a Feb. 26 Federal Communications Commission ruling regulating broadband Internet services.

The FCC voted 3–2 to reclassify broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act, with the purported intent of protecting open Internet, according to an FCC press release.

Both the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Board of Directors, composed of 100 key leaders among Christian communicators, and the Christian Film & Television Commission (CFTVC), a non-profit ministry aimed at redeeming the values of entertainment media, say the change will hamper free speech and oversteps the bounds of democracy.

"I am saddened that the FCC voted on partisan lines to dramatically expand federal power over the Internet," NRB President and CEO Jerry Johnson said in a press release. "Bigger government is not fertile ground for the flourishing of free speech and innovation. This is a power grab, and NRB opposes it."

During its 2015 convention in Nashville, the NRB had urged the FCC in a Feb. 23 resolution to oppose the change recommended by the Obama administration, stating it might also send a poor message to the international community regarding free speech. In the same resolution, the NRB encouraged voters to tell the government to reject the change.

"Asserting Title II power domestically could not only send a poor signal to nations that have or are considering more state governance of the Internet," the resolution reads, "but also it could appear to lend credence to arguments by certain repressive regimes that would like an international body like the International Telecommunications Union of the United Nations to have increased authority over the Internet."

The CFTVC, which publishes the entertainment monitoring site, said the new rules "will destroy innovation, progress and freedom on the Internet."

"If we allow the federal bureaucracy to control the Internet," said CFTVC chairman Ted Baehr, "the soft tyranny under which we now live will harden into a real tyranny where liberty will rapidly become a dim memory."

"The best solution," Baehr said, "is for American citizens to demand that Congress immediately overturn the new regulations."

The two FCC commissioners who voted against the ruling were Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly, according to the FCC website.

Pai, in a summary of his dissent posted on the FCC website, accused the body of turning its back on Internet freedom.

"It is flip-flopping for one reason and one reason alone. President Obama told it to do so," Pai's summary reads. "The Commission's decision to adopt President Obama's plan marks a monumental shift toward government control of the Internet. It gives the FCC the power to micromanage virtually every aspect of how the Internet works. It's an overreach that will let a Washington bureaucracy, and not the American people, decide the future of the online world."

On its website, the FCC promotes the changes, the Open Internet Order, as "strong, sustainable rules, grounded in multiple sources of legal authority, to ensure that Americans reap the economic, social, and civic benefits of an Open Internet today and in the future.

"These rules are guided by three principles: America's broadband networks must be fact, fair and open -- principles shared by the overwhelming majority of the nearly 4 million commenters who participated in the FCC's Open Internet proceeding."

The FCC says it stands on "multiple sources of authority" to reclassify broadband Internet access, including Title II of the Communications Act, and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

"Together Title II and Section 706 support clear rules of the road, providing the certainty needed for innovators and investors, and the competitive choices and freedom demanded by consumers," the FCC press release reads, "while not burdening broadband providers with anachronistic utility-style regulations such as rate regulation, tariffs or network sharing requirements."

Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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