Faith Groups Praise FCC Net Neutrality Ruling

We, as organizations representing many diverse religious traditions, express our gratitude to the Federal Communications Commission for the strong net neutrality protections adopted in February and released last week.  These protections will assure Internet openness and are essential for the faith community to function and connect with our members, to protect and enhance the ability of vulnerable communities to use advanced technology, and to organize, advocate for justice or bear witness in the crowded media environment.

An open internet impacts all of us, not just the technology sector or sophisticated elites. All of us rely on the Internet every day. We are relieved that our communities will not be forced to pay fees to ensure that our high-bandwidth content receives fair treatment on the Internet: non-profit communities, both religious and secular, cannot afford to pay those tolls. Even more important, low-income people cannot afford the higher prices which would be passed on to them from commercial content providers paying for priority access. The Internet is an indispensable medium for people of faith – and others with principled values – to convey views on matters of public concern and religious teachings. As Chairman Wheeler explained before the vote, Net Neutrality is a guarantee of First Amendment protections on the Internet. We strongly support the FCC’s decision as responsive to our previous letter to the FCC, and oppose efforts to derail those protections either legislatively or in court.

  • National Council of Churches USA
  • Franciscan Action Network
  • Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
  • The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society
  • United Church of Christ, OC Inc.

Letter to the Congressional Oversight Committee

March 16, 2015

Rep. Jason Chaffetz
Chair of the House Oversight & Gov’t Reform
2157 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Rep. Elijah Cummings
Ranking Member of theHouse Oversight & Gov’t Reform
2157 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Chaffetz and Ranking Member Cummings:

As racial justice and civil rights organizations, we write to express our support of the recent Federal Communications Commission decision to enact strong and enforceable Net Neutrality rules.

Our organizations are among the more than 100 racial justice and civil rights groups that have called on the FCC to pass strong Net Neutrality rules using its Title II authority. It is critical that the FCC have the legal authority to protect the online digital rights of communities that historically have been marginalized in our society. With such protections, our communities have been able to better participate in our democracy, tell our own stories, strive towards educational excellence and pursue economic success.

We are deeply troubled by Congressional efforts to overturn the Net Neutrality order and to strip the Commission of its legal authority to enforce its Net Neutrality protections under Title II of the Communications Act. This includes efforts to prevent the Commission from enforcing Net Neutrality by defunding the agency.

The Net Neutrality debate has centered on whether the Commission has the authority to enforce Net Neutrality rules that prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or discriminating against online content. A federal court ruled last year that the Commission could not ban such online discrimination without reclassifying ISPs as common carriers under Title II. Therefore, the FCC cannot protect Internet users from ISP practices such as blocking, throttling and other types of discriminatory conduct that could arise as the marketplace and technology evolves, without asserting its authority under Title II.

This is why more than four million people have called on the FCC to use its Title II authority to adopt strong and enforceable Net Neutrality rules over the past year.

Accordingly, we respectfully request that you join the millions of digital equality champions and support the FCC's historic decision, and reject any efforts to overturn or weaken the decision. You will be in good company, on the right side of public opinion and history.


Alliance for a Just Society
Black Alliance for Just Immigration Black Lives Matter
Center for Community Change Center for Media Justice
Center for Popular Democracy
Center for Rural Strategies
Center for Social Inclusion
Community Justice Network for Youth Demos
Dream Defenders
18 Million Rising
Ella Baker Center
Forward Together
Free Press
Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities Latino Rebels
Media Action Grassroots Network
Mexican American Opportunity Foundation
Million Hoodies Movement for Justice
Movement Strategy Center
National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) National Association of Hispanic Journalists
National Association of Latino Independent Producers National Economic & Social Rights Initiative
National Guestworker Alliance
National Hispanic Media Coalition
National Institute for Latino Policy
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund
National People's Action
News Taco
Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say
Our Walmart
Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity
Radio Bilingüe
Race Forward
Right to the City Alliance
Roosevelt Institute Campus Network
The Librotraficante Movement
The Praxis Project
United Church of Christ, OC Inc.
United We Dream
Voices for Internet Freedom

Kids Without Internet Get No Help from FCC

Working on social justice always involves steps forward and steps back. Even as last week we celebrated a step forward in communications policy, today we are pushed forcefully back. Today's 2 and a half page ruling by the Federal Communications Commission to reject two 10-year old petitions consisting of hundreds of pages by the United Church of Christ's media justice ministry and its partners are as deaf to the public interest and the Commission's role as any rulings under any administration. 


At the same time that Chairman Wheeler stood up to special interests in the Net Neutrality vote last week, the FCC's media bureau--which ultimately reports to the Chairman's office--was busy taking dictation from the broadcast lobby.  The losers are children who rely on broadcast TV—which is a lot of low income families and households of color.


These complaints were part of a series of complaints filed in 2004 and 2005. These complaints were designed to give the FCC a chance to issue rulings that would clarify that some of the most egregious violations of the Children's Television Act were out of bounds. We challenged soap operas posing as educational television for Spanish-speaking children. We challenged programming filled with advertisements for Medigap insurance and incontinence products as clearly not directed to children. We challenged programming described by our expert analysts as "among the most violent children’s shows … seen in … 20 years of studying children’s television" as insufficient to meet the children's educational obligations of broadcasters. 


While those petitions took immense resources and involvement from churches and communities all around the country, these examples were selected because they were egregious and obvious violations of law. In 2007 the Bush FCC fined Univision $24 million dollars--at the time the largest FCC fine ever levied--based on one of the petition about the now-infamous Complices al Rescate soap opera. Eight years ago, the pending NBC acquisition forced the FCC to take the petition seriously. Today, we have no merger to focus attention on broadcasters, and this order is released on Wheeler's watch when attention is focused elsewhere.


In the distant future, the business of television might well exclude any reliance on FCC licenses. But that time is not now. As we explained recently in a letter to the FCC asking them to take up this issue, the nearly 100 million US households that don’t subscribe to broadband are more likely to depend on broadcast TV for educational shows and, according to the National Association of Broadcasters, minorities currently make up 41% of broadcast-only homes. For the children in these households, educational programming at home comes from broadcast TV. 


And today the FCC's action told these children that no one is willing to look out for them.

Between You and God: The Spinning Wheel of Death

This post was written by OC Inc. Policy Advisor Cheryl Leanza and was originally posted on the Patheos Blog.

I am so grateful to Kimberly for offering a chance to guest blog here. As I am sure many of you do, I admire Kimberly’s writing so much — she brings the real struggle that we all experience to life in her posts — giving me energy to face my own struggles. I work for the UCC’s media justice ministry, and for me Kimberly’s work is such a great example of how the online world is as much a real community as any community I have in person. Today is a great day for me to post because this week is an important week for the Internet – the Federal Communications Commission is voting on the future of the Internet this week, and we expect Congress to get involved right after.

Through the Internet, many people find community with other people who believe the same things they do, validation at times when we’re in desperate need of support. We can find God in the electrons when we come together looking for human connection. Kimberly’s example is one of the important reasons why the UCC’s media justice ministry, OC Inc., has placed such a high priority on fighting for net neutrality, and why we co-founded Faithful Internet. The Internet creates human connection in miraculous ways that were not possible only a few years ago, and I firmly believe that as we move into more and more online spaces that mimic close interpersonal connections, more and more people will find meaning and relationships with each other and their faith communities.

Great examples abound. I know Kimberly started some of her online ministry insecond life, and I was just enjoying a great blog post interviewing Becca Kelstrom, who is a real life pastor, but also helps run a UCC church in second life today about how she welcomes and offers support to visitors in second life. And in the last year the United Church of Christ created Extravagance UCC, an online congregation, designed to reach people that don’t attend a traditional church. One of the driving reasons behind Extravagance is the UCC’s deeply held belief that we want to welcome all people to our community — Jesus taught to welcome everyone — and the UCC has been a leader in demonstrating we believe that the LGBTQ community is as welcome and blessed in God’s eyes as anyone. And yet, many people who we hope could find a home with us may have had many bad experiences in brick and mortar churches in the past. Perhaps, an online community could be a door that would be easier to enter for someone with years of hurt and anxiety about his or her sexual orientation and religion.

But to create a truly intimate and connected online space –where people can meet each other and the technology falls away, where the connection between people supersedes the technology used to connect–we’re going to need to use the most modern platforms. Today, participants connect in Extravagance using zoom online video chats. As it expands, it is my d

ream Extravagance will connect using more and more advanced video and high-intensity technology. As a church venturing down this path, that a few others have trod successfully ahead of us–folks like Darkwood Brew and the Unitarian’s Church of the Larger Fellowship, the UCC is marshalling all of our scarce resources to develop worship, master technology, find the people who would find meaning and friendship in our community. While we know we have to compete with the myriad other things in people’s lives, from their busy schedules to their fears to the doubts, so far, however, we’ve been able to rest assured that if someone wants to join us on Sunday nights for online video bible study–they can as long as they have a computer and a broadband connection.

Like so many efforts at building community, we are reliant on the world around us, structures and decisions beyond our own efforts can put in front of us impenetrable walls. As so many Christians who are called to social justice–who look beyond the immediate needs of today to the structural barriers that result in inequity, poverty, fear, isolation. In our case, we’re reliant on an Internet that treats everyone equally — if someone wants to view our video feed, they can. Content from NBC or Amazon or Netflix rides on the same wires and is treated the same way as Extravagance Bible study. But as some of you have heard in this space before, technology policy is invading our utopian dream of an online space where all can meet as equals communing with each other and God. Because there is a danger that, in Washington DC, the law of the land could explicitly permit the big content folks to pay to be at the front of the line on the Internet.

Imagine, someone who is fearful, they haven’t been to church in years despite feeling the call to participate in a worship community, they think, “Well, maybe these Extravagance people could be OK, I’ll check them out.” The time for a service arrives, they log in, and — that little buffering circle of death is all they see. She’s waiting, and while waiting she starts to surf around on her phone — hey,Transparent comes through right away! “I can watch that show right now, and I’m already 10 minutes late for worship — I don’t want to start in the middle, maybe I’ll connect with God another day.” Or maybe that person does connect, but at the critical moment in the sermon, or a soaring sacred song–the spinning wheel pops up.

The moment is gone, community falls away and we’re left with a blank screen. Imagine that happening, not once in a while– but Every. Single. Time. Why? Because the big companies have deep pockets and they can pay big bucks to send their content faster, right away. The rest of us have to wait. God is lost to buffering.

Maybe you’ve never heard of “net neutrality” or maybe it’s old news. But net neutrality is the nick-name for a policy that will stop my nightmare scenario and protect all Internet content — make sure that everyone is treated fairly online. Net neutrality might sound like a far-away issue for nerds and big companies. But it’s not, and it’s not even only a concern for those of us creating faith communities online. The Internet is essential these days, whether it is a web site telling people when service starts on Sunday or a Mosque letting people know that a neighbor is ill and needs a hand, whether it’s a pastor demonstrating the vitality and humanity of young African Americans in her neighborhood in response to Ferguson, or Birth Justice doulas helping women deliver babies in prison. Research shows that increasing load times by as little as 100 millisecondssignificantly reduces the amount of time people spend on a site. A small delay means a big problem.

This is why I’m so proud of our work to demonstrate the importance of net neutrality to everyone and to work for the UCC’s media justice ministry and ourFaithful Internet project. I’m so grateful Kimberly let me share this story today, and for her earlier blog on this topic. At Faithful Internet we’re sponsoring aGroundswell petition and collecting testimonials of the many ways that the faith community uses the Internet, from online justice actions to sermons via podcast, from connecting with our pastors to talking with teens.

Please, visit Faithful Internet to explain how you use the Internet — perhaps you read blogs on Patheos?– so that our leaders in Congress know that all of us are counting on full, real, net neutrality. The FCC adopted great rules today, but the newly conservative Congress is already making plans to block it. Our political leaders need to know that this will affect all of us.