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.

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Hypothetically, 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:

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.