.- The Internet is âa critical medium for religious speechâ and there should be legislation in place to prevent Internet-access providers from interfering with Web content, said Bishop Gerald Kicanas in a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives.
âUnless there are in place protections against Internet-access providersâ control over content, noncommercial religious speech on the Internet is threatened,â said the bishop in his May 23 letter. Bishop Kicanas serves as the chairman of the U.S. bishopsâ Communications Committee.
Bishop Kicanas urged that such protections, termed ânet neutrality requirements,â be included in the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act. As approved by the House Subcommittee, the bill lacks net neutrality protections.
âThose protections have particular importance for religious organizations which must rely on the Internet to convey information on matters of faith and on the services they provide to the public,â Bishop Kicanas said.
âThe Internet was constructed as a unique medium without the editorial control functions of broadcast television, radio or cable television,â he wrote. âThat open environment, however, is threatened by a lack of response by Congress to the recent decision by the FCC to end the decades-old regulatory regime which fostered the unique freedom and openness of the Internet.
âWhen the FCC classified cable broadband service (and later telephone broadband) as an âinformationâ service, it ended more than 30 years of regulation that prohibited companies, which control the infrastructure connecting people to the Internet, from interfering with the content distributed on the Internet.
âUnless Congress requires telephone and cable companies to act as neutral providers of Internet access â¦ those companies will use their control over Internet access to speed up or slow down connections to websites to benefit themselves financially,â the bishop warned.
At the present time, radio, broadcast television and cable television are largely closed to religious messages, Bishop Kicanas noted.
âYears of deregulation and growing consolidation of the media industry have inevitably led to a hostile environment for noncommercial religious voices in broadcasting,â he observed.
âIf the Internet becomes, as it inevitably will without strong protections for net neutrality, a medium where speakers must pay to deliver their messages, religious speech will be effectively barred from the Internet,â he warned.