Do the Bishops Want Us to Continue Subsidizing Porn?

No, the bishops do not want us to subsidize porn usage on the Internet but that is the reality of a position agreed to by a committee of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on something called “net neutrality.”

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont (who is chairman of the Communications Committee of the USCCB) has announced his opposition to efforts by the current Republican FCC chairman to overturn federal regulation of Internet service providers imposed by the Obama administration back in 2015.

This announcement has been reported as a position of “the bishops,” but it most certainly is not. The announcement speaks to the problematic tendency of USCCB committees to speak out on way too many issues, perhaps on issues where they have no competence. And it also speaks to the resultant confusion among the laity about whether they have to take this announcement to heart as faithful Catholics, or whether than can reject it out of hand.

Net neutrality, also called “open Internet,” is the deeply dishonest name given to a federal take-over of the Internet. Ginned up by the Democrats and based on a Depression-era law used to hamper Bell Telephone, it turns the Internet over to the Federal Communications Commission and turns it into a “public utility” like electricity. This means the FCC can tell Internet service providers (ISPs) what they can and cannot charge. It means the FCC can tax ISPs. The FCC can insist ISPs get approval for any new innovations or business plans. You want better, faster, cheaper Internet? The FCC gets to decide.

Proponents of federal regulation say it is necessary so that Internet service providers cannot charge content providers and end-users more or less based on the size of data usage. Look at it this way. My sixth-grade daughter uses the Internet for research on volcanoes and uses a certain small amount of data. Porn guy down the street logs onto YouPorn and uses 10,000 times that amount of data. Net neutrality says porn guy gets charged the exact same amount as my daughter even though he uses massively more data. Seen another way, my family underwrites somebody else’s porn data.

Proponents of federal regulation fear that ISPs will charge them more for usage and that Churches and non-profits could not afford it and that their content will be “throttled” and perhaps even censored by Comcast or Verizon. Don’t forget that Twitter and YouTube are already censoring conservative groups.

It’s not just porn sites that use massive amounts of Internet bandwidth. It’s not just Internet pornographers that favor federal regulation of the Internet. So do Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. They love that ISPs cannot charge them and consumers more for using their data-heavy sites.

The best analogy I have read is with furniture manufacturers who would love it if trucking companies could not charge more or less based on the amount of furniture they haul down the interstate highway system. You might call such a system “furniture neutrality” and consider it would be a matter of fairness that truckers and furniture buyers cannot be charged more or less based on the amount of furniture hauled or bought.

You might think that ISPs would oppose federal regulation. After all, Comcast, Verizon and others are the ones carrying the load on their systems. You might think they would want to charge more for heavy usage. But, federal regulation also benefits them in that such regulations become barriers to market entry. It keeps others out. New ISPs would find it more difficult to go against the big-boys that have armies of lawyers and lobbyists to help them through the inevitable morass of dealing with the intrusive FCC.

Consider also that such regulations and necessary approval by the FCC for new technology would hamper Verizon and Comcast from innovating. Americans want better, faster, cheaper internet access. This would not happen or would happen glacially under “net neutrality.” But Comcast and Verizon are willing to go along provided that upstarts with innovative ideas are throttled by the FCC.

The FCC has announced a vote coming on December 14 that would set the Internet free. The vote will strike down “net neutrality.” Bishop Coyne and others at the USCCB seem to want Catholics to believe the Church opposes this. It should be noted that the body of bishops have never voted on “net neutrality,” not even once. The bishops have not spoken. What’s more, even if they did, this is beyond their competence. This is up to laymen to decide all on their own.

A few weeks ago, a reporter for lefty America Magazine pointed out, approvingly, that the USCCB has made something like 250 announcements in the past year. That is pretty much one for every working day. Have these folks every heard that less is more? Have they ever considered that some issues should be left alone? Are they at all concerned that commenting on so many issues will water down Catholic teaching on doctrinal issues?

I am sure that Bishop Christopher Coyne is a fine man. I presume he is an excellent bishop. But, with regard to “net neutrality,” Bishop Coyne is just another guy with an opinion.

Austin Ruse

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Austin Ruse is president of C-FAM (Center for Family & Human Rights), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute. He is the author of Fake Science: Exposing the Left’s Skewed Statistics, Fuzzy Facts, and Dodgy Data published by Regnery. He is also the author of the new book Little Suffering Souls: Children Whose Short Lives Point Us to Christ published by Tan Books. The views expressed here are solely his own.

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