I'm hoping that better minds than mine will engage the debate over the FCC's proposed policy of "net neutrality."
According to Jeffrey Rosen, writing in The New Republic (Oct. 21, 2009), "The essence of net neutrality seems simple: Internet service providers should be required to treat all data equally and avoid blocking or delaying any sites or applications." On the surface, that seems fair enough. Let the public decide what they will or will not receive on their computers and mobile phones.
But there are a couple of troubling assumptions undergirding this proposed policy. The first is the assumption that all proposed data handled by ISPs is equally valid and, thus, equally moral. If an ISP can't block data from its system, the assumption is that the values and morals of the one originating that data are no better or worse than those originating any other kind of data. Will this policy make it easier to shop porn across the Internet?
A second troubling assumption derives from the rationale for this policy. The FCC does not want ISPs to block data from sources for merely financial reasons, shutting down ads or content that might hurt their bottom line. But are we to assume that there are no other legitimate reasons for an ISP to block data? Do we need a huge blanket policy just because corporations tend to act in the business interest of themselves and their stock holders? What if that business policy is based on a distinct moral or even religious values system, to which both the corporation and its share holders subscribe?
The proposed policy provokes another question in my mind, that being whether or not such a policy would prohibit any future creation of interest-specific ISPs. What if a Christian company wanted to provide an ISP service to customers, assuring subscribers, for example, that all pornography would be blocked before it could reach their homes; otherwise, all other Internet services would be available? I don't even know if that can be done, but would the FCC's proposed policy prohibit even this kind of thinking?
I'm always leery of goverment agencies wanting to adopt blanket policies in response to particular instances of possible wrong-doing. We're just not smart enough to think in those kinds of terms. God is, however, and He has made His views known. Sadly, His views are already blocked in the halls of government.