Why Mormons Should Actively Support Net Neutrality

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Every morning on the way to work, I use the LDS Gospel Library app to listen to a couple chapters of the Book of Mormon. This morning it wouldn’t work for the 1st part of the drive. Since I’m streaming them, it’s dependent on the the 3G coverage in the area to get that data to my phone. The thought occured to me: “what if Sprint is blocking traffic to LDS.org?” It was one of those random, crazy thoughts that had no seriousness behind it… at least at 1st. Because the streaming audio had not yet begun, the thought lingered and birthed others: “what if they could throttle or block traffic from LDS.org?” And then the realization: “oh, yeah, they can throttle or block traffic from anywhere they please.”

What is Net Neutrality?

That’s what “net neutrality” is all about. Can the internet provider (this instance Sprint, since my phone’s on Republic Wireless) throttle or even block certain websites, types of traffic, etc? In the past the answer was “No! The internet is neutral. All traffic, regardless of source, content, etc, must be treated the same, unless it is illegal.” But that changed not too long ago, when the US Supreme Court told the FCC that they could no longer use the rules that had enforced this policy of “net neutrality” in the past. As Mormon’s, we have a long history of persecution. We’ve seen a resurgence of it in the wake of Mitt Romney running for President, and the gay-marriage issue. The lessons of our own history shows that it’s not a good idea to give any group of people power over another. Internet providers being able to selectively throttle, or even block traffic, is one such power.

no-lds-mormon-websitesHypothetically, What Could Happen?

Imagine this: you wake up one morning and you can’t access LDS.org. Or even worse, you can’t access MormonLifeHacker.com! This Week in Mormons? Nope. Mormon.org? Crickets. LeadingLDS? No way. FamilySearch.org? Nada. Mormon Mommy Blogs? Nothin’ doin’. Your internet isn’t down. You can visit Facebook, and Google, watch videos on YouTube and Netflix, but for some reason no LDS sites seem to work for you. You can’t get your phone to synch the updated ward list in the LDS Tools app, or download the conference report in Gospel Library. Finally you give up and pull up Twitter. You notice a tweet that says something about “Mormon Church” and “Your ISP”. You tap through and find out that Your ISP has decided to block all traffic to LDS and Mormon themed sites. That’s not fair! you think. Then read on, to find out that anti-Mormon sites are not blocked, only official sites, and ones friendly to the church. Why? Well, I’ll let you pick from any number of recent reasons the Church has been unpopular in the “popular” news of late. Whichever you pick, the CEO of “Your ISP” is outspokenly against the Church’s position on the issue, and had decided to use his company’s strangle-hold on the internet in your area, to put pressure on the Church and help all of us “blind followers” to realize the error of our ways.

Could This Happen?

Do I think this will happen? No, I don’t. But could it? Yes, absolutely. And it would be legal, too. The mere fact that it could happen is enough that we should fight against it. What if, in another 2 decades, Mormons and Mormonism have been moved into that category reserved for biggots and racists? In today’s society, it’s not okay to hate anyone, except biggots, racists, and Wetboro Baptists (and maybe Jews, depending on where you are). What if slowly the world moves so far away from the things we know are right, that we get stuck in that category? A place where it’s okay to hate Mormons, and nobody cares to defend our rights. A world where the majority cheers on Your ISP’s actions. We’ve been in that category before. Joseph Smith met with Martin Van Buren, President of the United States, asking him to help the the Saints. They’d been persecuted to the extreme, including members of the Church being murdered, merely for being Mormon. The President told Joseph:

“Your cause is just, but I cannot help you. If I help you I will lose the vote of the state of Missouri.”

What if we were in that category again? Where nobody else cared about how we were treated? Would you want ISP’s to have that power to limit what you can access?

The Free Market vs Regulation

I’m a big supporter of freedom and the free market, including businesses deciding what kind of service they want to provide, and even the right to refuse service to anyone. But there has to be legal limits to protect the minorities and the unpopular. Look at the pre-1960’s, when black people were refused service by businesses, or forced to use “separate but equal” facilities. In this case, ISP’s could be abusive in their use of it, and there is usually only 1 or 2 good alternative providers in a given market. So there’s no real free market in this space anyway. If there were more competition, then it wouldn’t be an issue. We’d all just switch to the provider who will treat all traffic equally, and pretty soon the $$$$ would convince all ISP’s to treat all traffic the same. Unfortunately that’s not the case. So we need laws or policies that force ISP’s to treat all traffic equally. We need Net Neutrality.

What to Do About It

Right now the FCC has a period where they’re taking feedback, via their website. You can add your voice there, by clicking the “14-28″ link pictured here: FCC website Net Neutrality comment link You can call or email your congressperson. When elections come around, let candidates know you’ll only vote for those that support Net Neutrality. You can also share this article, or other information about the dangers of not having Net Neutrality, on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or other channels. Net neutrality, is incredibly popular right now. But, there’s a lot of big money pushing the opposite direction. We need to continue to spread the work, if we’re going to get this protection reinstated, and further protected. Please do a little something, today.

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Tevya Washburn

Website Creator at FiddlerStudios
Designer & creator of Mormon Life Hacker. Tevya keeps a personal blog, & another called Sacred Symbolic, about learning the Gospel through symbolism. Currently serving as: Exec Sec

4 comments on “Why Mormons Should Actively Support Net Neutrality

  1. Harry says:

    I don’t like the the term “Why MORMONS SHOULD…” at all. Even if this title was chosen to put emphasize on the topic it is still unwise. I’m a Latter-day saints and vehemently oppose so-called net neutrality. This is not a question of faith. And I strongly recommend to be careful in our choice of words. Because this title is implying that anybody who does not support so-called net neutrality is not really a Mormon or at least is trespassing. Frankly, I find this choice of words offensive.

    OK, now to the topic at hand: The basic argument presented in this article is that we do not have enough competition to let the market rule. I disagree. It is true that in many areas the number of providers is not very high. This is partly caused by the decade-long monopoly that the feds put up in the telecommunication market. But you don’t fight former mistakes by making even more.

    If enough people don’t like providers who give parties who pay more a better service (this is what so-called net neutrality is all about) then their will rise up alternative providers who do not discriminate against some parties simply because there will be a sufficient demand for such providers. This demand – if ever – will not come up before today’s situation of voluntary net neutrality is changed.

    Other than that I do not grasp the problem behind the so-called net neutrality: “Pay more. get more” is something we have to deal with every single day of our live. If we are employed we usually work in a more responsible position when we get payed more than others in the company. We give our employer more (of our talents) because he pays us better. In the grocery store products with an added value (real or felt value) are more expensive. Our cable provider gives us more program choices if we pay more. We arrive much faster at our chosen destination when we pay more to fly than if we pay less to take the bus. Wen we pay our cell phone provider more we get a better contract with better services, more included minutes or whatever. The list goes on and on without end. We pay more, we get more.

    But suddenly things change when it is not called grocery store, employer, cable or cell provider but Internet provider? In my opinion this is ridiculous.

    1. The title doesn’t suggest that if you’re against net-neutrality, you’re not a Mormon. I’m happy to hear opposing view points. The title is meant as a call, a suggestion, and an argument, as to why Mormon’s should support it, nothing else. I’m sorry you were offended by it, but it does not mean what you took it to mean.

      The basic argument is that because there is so little competition, groups like Mormons could be targeted unfairly. Also that internet (and actually this all applies to cell providers as well, as the article points out) providers have a power and control they should not have. Some of the misunderstandings represented in your comment, are key reasons I decided to write this. There’s both physical and legal limits that make competition in this space impossible, without major government intervention, and/or incredible expense. Small provider’s can’t just “pop up” and provide an alternative, or “more” (as you say). It doesn’t work that way when there’s a limited amount of airwave spectrum (for cell and over-the-air ISP’s), and laying fiber to an entire city is prohibitively expensive.

      Google Fiber is a good example of this. Google has incredibly deep pockets. Yet they’re only rolling out in selected cities, and only very slowly, and only if the city government agrees to pay for a lot of it themselves (with tax dollars). So even Google says “we need the people to pay for this, in advance.”

      1. Harry says:

        I see you didn’t mean to offend Mormons who have different opinions about this topic. Thanks for clarifying this.

        Mormons – as everybody else – can be denied services by any business. Of course. The service provider/business owner decides whether or not he or she wants to serve a specific person or a specific group of persons or not. That’s his or her right.

        When it comes to cell phone services and cable and ISP services choices are often limited depending on the city you live in. The reason for this is government-made (old or even current state monopolies) as well as the natural result of limited resources. But in my opinion this is still no valid reason to force any business owner to serve a specific person or even provide mandated services at all. If I cannot get whatever services or goods I would like to have in the city I currently live in for whatever reason I will have to decide to stay or to move. Forcing others to serve me is not a valid option in my opinion.

        Think about the case where the Christian baker do not want to provide a cake for a lesbian couple who just got “married”. I’m a Mormon and strongly believe in what the First Presidency said in their proclamation about the family. However I personally would provide the desired cake. But that’s my decision and the baker I’m talking about decided to not bake the cake. His decision has to be respected. The said lesbian couple sued and won. The baker has to provide his service to them. That’s net neutrality in a cake :-)

        Do you agree with that court decision? I do not, though I personally would have served the couple. But I believe in the right of every person – and business owner – to deny services to anybody at anytime.

        The couple could have went to another city to get a cake for their celebration. Sure, that would have been a burden for them. Maybe cakes in other cities are more expensive as well. But in my opinion they have no right to force anybody to serve them.

        You might disagree. And I promise you will still be my brother in Christ :-)

        1. I think we’re on the same side man. I agree that competition should make things right. But as it is, it can’t and won’t. Thus the scenario I wrote about in the article very well could happen. There’s many symptoms that suggest that competition is currently not possible in this space. The sheer lack of ISP’s in an given market is one example. Another is internet speeds. If there were competition in this space, we’d be seeing these companies try to outdo each other on speed, causing the US to rank among the fastest internet speeds in the world. We don’t see that. Much internet speed innovation is invented and built in the US, yet we lag far behind many other countries. If nothing else, Net Neutrality should be implemented as a temporary solution. Then, when we change other factors to introduce a real free market back into this space, then Net Neutrality can be removed and allow the free market to dictate.

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