Net Neutrality and the Church
I would hazard a guess that most of the people that read these pages are not that familiar with Net Neutrality. And I am not that surprised
Why am I not surprised? Two reasons
- Whenever mentioned, I get glazed looks
- I am not hearing a whole lot of protesting from the Church
I guess number 2 is the most telling, as if we really understood what the impact of Net Neutrality is, the Church would be standing up for its rights.
So, What Is It?
In its most basic form, Net Neutrality is the right for all data, website, applications, content etc. to be treated the same, regardless of where it came from or how it gets to you.
In other words, third parties are not messing around with it, blocking it etc.
It is one of the core tenants of the Internet as we knew it.
So, What’s Changed?
On December 14th, 2017, the FCC (the governing body in America) approved a plan to remove Net Neutrality protection.
Why Are They Doing It?
There are a lot of genuine looking reasons for this change, including the ability to remove the spread of hate, and that is to be applauded. The majority of the reasons however, are purely commercial.
As I mentioned before, Net Neutrality is a founding principle of the internet. Think of it like freedom of speech, removal of it can have devastating effects.
Our ISP’s are now able to make decisions about what content we can see, how fast we can see it and can give certain content preferential treatment.
The impact is enormous:
- ISPs can now control what we see and when we see it. We all know about Fake News, but this makes matters even worse, as anything that doesn’t fit into the ideals of the company (or the person(s) paying the wages) can effectively be censored
- Marginalised or misrepresented communities or individuals can effectively have their ability to communicate wiped out over night
- Current regulations ensure a high level of oversight which will effectively be boiled down to some very basic disclosure requirements
- Prices of broadband will rise. ISPs can now limit competition by doing deals with content providers so only certain content can be supplied on certain ISPs…for which they can charge what they want
But What About the Church?
It doesn’t take a degree in Rocket Science to work out that this is not good news for the Church.
At a time where the Church is already in decline, ISPs are now in a position to compress the message even further. Here are just some of the potential impacts:
- Say goodbye to live-streaming. An ISP is now in a position to shut-down our ability to stream videos of our services. Of course, you could change ISP but in rural areas where choices are limited, it is very likely you will be stuck with what you have got.
- Consistent inconsistency. If we can find a provider that will allow us to send messages (or even host our websites), it is not guaranteed that the people will be able to see it, or have the same experience.
- Reduced reach. With the internet being the ONLY place of growth for reaching people with the Gospel, the removal of Net Neutrality threatens to force us back on to the streets with leaflets (face-palm).
Why Are You So Worried About It?
It is true to say, that at this time there are no signs of any companies restricting the Church, so you would be excused in thinking that all I am writing is scaremongering, and you may be right.
But what I do know is that the Church has to deal with contentious issues, and as these issues conflict with society they are often thrown in the same box as hate and intolerance. If that happens, ISPs will be quick to remove the content, effectively silencing the Church and potentially Her message.
On the plus side, it does highlight how fragile we can make things. When we base our Church model on something like the internet which is still very young (it’s only 26 years old), should we be surprised when things like this change.
For me it shows the need to ensure our church strategy is founded on much stronger foundations.
I would love to hear your views on the impact of Net Neutrality (Church or not), so please do drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Digital Church
Here at Digital Church, this is our passion. We want to help Churches recognize the opportunities and then give them the strategies, tools and practical help to put it into practice.
Please do reach out and contact us on email@example.com, if you are interested in how we can help your church or organization.