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Net neutrality rules needed to keep faith communities connected: U.S. bishops’ committee

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WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Communications has urged the Trump administration to keep current net neutrality rules in place because an open internet, he said, is critical to the nation’s faith communities and how they interact with their members.

“Without open internet principles which prohibit paid prioritization, we might be forced to pay fees to ensure that our high-bandwidth content receives fair treatment on the internet,” said Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont.

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U.S. bishops urge FCC to retain open internet, net neutrality

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — In comments delivered July 17 to the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged the FCC to use “the strongest legal authority available” to “retain open internet regulations.”

A man holds his smartphone in San Francisco in this  file photo. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has urged the Federal Communications Commission to use "the strongest legal authority available" to "retain open internet regulations." (CNS photo/Susanna Bates, EPA)

A man holds his smartphone in San Francisco in this file photo. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has urged the Federal Communications Commission to use “the strongest legal authority available” to “retain open internet regulations.” (CNS photo/Susanna Bates, EPA)

The current regulations, adopted in 2015 by a Democratic-majority FCC, treat the internet as a utility. A prior FCC effort to regulate the internet as a communication service did not stand up to judicial scrutiny. The regulations are now under review by a Republican-led FCC. The concept of an open internet has long been called “net neutrality,” in which internet service providers neither favor nor discriminate against internet users or websites.

The USCCB is “concerned that the FCC is contemplating eliminating current regulations limiting the manner by which the companies controlling the infrastructure connect people to the internet,” said USCCB assistant general counsel Katherine Grincewich.

“Without the current strong open internet regulations, including prohibitions on paid prioritization, the public has no effective recourse against internet service providers’ interference with accessibility to content,” Grincewich said.

“There will be uncertainty about how and whether those companies can block, speed up or slow down access to internet content, and nonprofit religious entities will be relegated to an internet slow lane,” she added. “Since public interest noncommercial, including religious, programming is a low priority for broadcasters and cable companies, the internet is one of the few mediums available to churches and religious groups to communicate their messages and the values fundamental to the fabric of our communities.”

Grincewich noted, “Without protections to prohibit internet providers from tampering with content delivery on the internet, the fundamental attributes of the internet, in which users have unfettered access to content and capacity to provide content to others, are jeopardized.” Such protections, she added, “have particular importance” for those “committed to religious principles” who depend on the internet to convey to the public information “on matters of faith” and on the services provided to the public by those organizations or individuals.

“The internet is an indispensable medium for Catholics, and others with principled values, to convey views on matters of public concern and religious teachings,” Grincewich said.

“The internet was constructed as a unique medium without the editorial control functions of broadcast television, radio or cable television. The internet is open to any speaker, commercial or noncommercial, whether or not the speech is connected financially to the company priding internet access or whether it is popular or prophetic These characteristics make the internet critical to noncommercial religious speakers.”

Grincewich added, “Just as importantly, the internet is increasingly the preferred method for the disenfranchised and vulnerable, the poor that the church professes a fundamental preference toward, to access services, including educational and vocational opportunities to improve their lives and their children’s lives.”

The USCCB “also supports the rights of parents to protect their children from pornography,” one consequence of an open internet, Grincewich said. “The means of protecting children from such material is available to parents,” she added, “without ceding it to companies providing internet access.”

In the USCCB’s filing, Grincewich noted how Pope Benedict XVI warned against the “distortion that occurs when the media industry becomes self-serving or solely profit-driven, losing the sense of accountability to the common good,” which the pope said in this 2006 World Day of Communication message.

“As a public service, social communication requires a spirit of cooperation and co-responsibility with vigorous accountability of the use of public resources and the performance of roles of public trust,” Pope Benedict said, “including recourse to regulatory standards and other measure or structures designed to affect this goal.”

Grincewich also noted Pope Francis has called the digital world “a public square” and said the internet “can help us be better citizens.”

An online “day of action” July 12 on net neutrality issues resulted in a reported 2 million comments on the FCC proposal being sent online to the FCC.

 

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Pope says Internet is a ‘gift from God,’ should be used for solidarity

January 23rd, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Like the good Samaritan, who stopped on the road to help a person in need, travelers along today’s communication highways should offer support to those they encounter there, Pope Francis said.

“The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people,” he said in his message for World Communications Day.

“The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people,” Pope Francis says in his message for World Communications Day. (CNS photo illustration/Lisa Johnston/St. Louis Review)

Modern means of communication, especially the Internet, offer “immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity,” he said. Because of that, he said, the Internet is “a gift from God.”

“Communication at the service of an authentic culture of encounter” is the theme of this year’s World Communications Day, which most dioceses will mark June 1, the Sunday before Pentecost. The message, released Jan. 23, was dated Jan. 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists.

“Good communication helps us grow closer, to know one another better, and ultimately to grow in unity,” the pope said.

“The walls which divide us can be broken down only if we are prepared to listen and learn from one another,” he said. “A culture of encounter demands that we be ready not only to give, but also to receive.”

Good communicators must take the time necessary to listen to others and, more than just tolerate, truly accept them, he said.

“Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute,” the pope said in his message.

Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told reporters that the pope is not proposing “a relativism” of the faith, but is continuing his predecessors’ calls for the church to engage with a multi-cultural and multi-religious world.

“I can’t have an outlook of being the only one and the absolute,” Archbishop Celli said. “I am just a concrete incarnation of that truth that is Jesus Christ and his Gospel,” which people live out in myriad ways in different cultures and traditions across the world.

Pope Francis, in his message, quoted Pope Benedict XVI’s 2013 World Communications Day text, which says effective Christian witness is “about our willingness to be available to others ‘by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence,’” not by “bombarding people with religious messages.”

Pope Francis said genuinely paying attention to others’ experiences helps one appreciate the various gifts and richness in other cultures and traditions.

A culture of encounter, listening and dialogue will help everyone see and “appreciate more fully the important values inspired by Christianity, such as the vision of the human person, the nature of marriage and the family, the proper distinction between the religious and the political spheres, the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity and many others,” he said.

Though there are drawbacks and risks with an accelerated and sometimes isolating means of communication, “they do not justify rejecting social media,” he said.

Technology should serve humanity, helping it “grow in humanity and mutual understanding.”

The pope called for an attitude of “neighborliness” in communication, to promote closeness and community.

The good Samaritan is a model for how to approach and interact with others on today’s digital highways, taking responsibility for the hurt and lost there, the pope said.

“Whenever communication is primarily aimed at promoting consumption or manipulating others, we are dealing with a form of violent aggression like that suffered by the man in the parable,” beaten by robbers and abandoned on the road,’ he said.

“There is a danger that certain media so condition our responses that we fail to see our real neighbor,” the pope said. Information overload or overexposure to injustices like poverty can make us “so accustomed to these things that they no longer unsettle us.”

Good communicators bring beauty, goodness and truth to people, something no snappy or sophisticated media strategy can do, he said.

“Let our communication be a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts,” the pope said.

“May the light we bring to others not be the result of cosmetics or special effects, but rather of our being loving and merciful ‘neighbors’ to those wounded and left of the side of the road.”

Pope Francis said impartiality in the media is an illusion, since only by going out into the world and taking the risk of being truly and transparently oneself can communicators become a trusted and “true point of reference.”

“Personal engagement is the basis of the trustworthiness of a communicator,” he said.

The pope said he prefers “a bruised church which goes out to the streets” and helps people encounter Christ to “a church suffering from self-absorption,” with its doors and digital spaces closed to outsiders.

“We are called to show that the church is the home of all,” he said, where people, “whatever their situation in life, can enter.”

The text of the pope’s World Communications Day message in English is available online at: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/messages/communications/documents/papa-francesco_20140124_messaggio-comunicazioni-sociali_en.html

 

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Pope decries hedonism denigrating women

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI called for an end to prostitution and pornography, saying the practices denigrate women and represent “a serious lack of humanity.”

The pope made the remarks as he welcomed Reinhard Schweppe as Germany’s ambassador to the Holy See Nov. 7. The pope’s talk focused on the church’s role in defending human dignity.

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