President Pushes FCC On Net Neutrality
On Nov. 10, President Obama shifted focus after the mid-term elections to an issue he has campaigned on for years: net neutrality. Releasing a video and a written statement, the President requested the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) uphold net neutrality. This request is due to a court ruling in January that the previous set of Internet regulations were rendered void.
The President proposed the FCC adopt a four-pronged plan. First, the President has asked that the FCC reclassify Internet service as a utility. In his written statement, Obama explained, “If a consumer requests access to a website or service, and the content is legal, your ISP should not be permitted to block it.” (Office of the White House, “Statement on Net Neutrality,” 11.10.14)
Aside from requesting an increase in transparency by Internet providers, the President also attacked practices of throttling and paid priority. The President argued, “Simply put: No service should be stuck in a ‘slow lane’ because it does not pay a fee…I am asking for an explicit ban on paid prioritization and any other restriction that has a similar effect.”(Office of the White House)
These policies have become increasingly significant recently as Netflix has made deals with Comcast and Verizon to allow users faster streaming.
Obama’s appeal for net neutrality fits into a larger pattern, as his was one of millions people offering opinions. The FCC held a public commenting period, in which approximately 3.7 million users posted comments, with The New York Times alledging the majority favoring of net neutrality. As the FCC is an independent agency, the President’s request has limited weight. According to The New York Times, “Tom Wheeler, chairman of the [FCC], on Monday said he welcomed the president’s input…But he did not say whether he would fully support reclassifying broadband as a utility.” (“Obama Calls for Strict Net Neutrality Policy,” 11.10.14)
A decision will not soon be reached, until the FCC considers its next steps, though this did not stop others from weighing in on the President’s proposal. In a tweet written within hours of the President’s statements, Senator Ted Cruz wrote, “‘Net Neutrality’ is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.” (@SenTedCruz, 11.10.14)
Pope Francis Demotes Top U.S. Bishop
On Nov. 9, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has again reassigned Cardinal Raymond Burke, the highest-ranking, and extremely conservative, American bishop within the Catholic Church. This is not the first demotion for the cardinal, who has now been moved from the position as the head of the Church’s highest court to the position of Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a ceremonial position managing charity work to the elderly. While no reasons were given by Church officials for the reassignment, many attribute the demotion to Cardinal Burke’s open criticisms of Pope Francis’ progrssive agenda. This is the cardinal’s second reassignment in two years. Last year, Cardinal Burke was transferred from the Congregation of Bishops, a group within the Church responsible for appointing bishops.
Cardinal Burke has earned notoriety for his conservative stances on a wide variety of social issues. The cardinal has long asserted that Communion should be denied to all Catholic politicians supporting abortion. Recently, when responding to a hypothetical situation posed by believers in which Catholic parents must decide whether to invite homosexual family members to holiday gatherings where children are present, he asserted his stance on homosexuality. He questioned, “If homosexual relations are intrinsically disordered, which indeed they are—reason teaches us that and also our faith—then, what would it mean to grandchildren to have present at a family gathering a family member who is living [in] a disordered relationship with another person?” (Lifesite, “Exclusive: Cardinal Burke responds to Australian couple’s Synod presentation on family’s gay son,” 10.09.14)
The cardinal has also been directly critical of the Pope, telling Buzzfeed last month that, “The Pope is not free to change the church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts or the insolubility of marriage or any other doctrine of the faith,” (CNN, “Pope Francis reassigns conservative American cardinal.” 11.10.14)
Last week he said, “Many have expressed their concern to me…There is a strong sense that the church is like a ship without a rudder.” (USA Today, “Pope Francis again demotes hard-line U.S. cardinal,” 11.09.14)
This demotion has been linked with the Pope’s perceived liberalism. Apparently, the original draft of a text by the Pope discussed the “gifts and qualities” gay believers add to the faith, only to have these statements cut before the final publication. (CNN) The Pope has also been frequently quoted as asking, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” (BBC, “Pope Francis: Who am I to judge gay people,” 07.29.14)
Bethan Johnson, Contributing Editor