On Register Radio this week, co-host Dan Burke and guest Matthew Warner, the founder of Flocknote.com, who blogs at TheRadicalLife.org and co-authored the book The Church and New Media, discuss the controversy over President Barack Obama’s net neutrality proposal, which has been called Obamacare for the internet.

What’s net neutrality?

“To put it most basically, the idea that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally,” said Warner. “That when you go to access any kind of data anywhere on the internet that no middleman, or no provider of that service, would treat that content differently than anything else. ... So it is an effort to make sure all data is treated equally and fairly.”

The concept of net neutrality isn’t new. It’s been a contentious topic in the United States since the 1990s. But in late February the Federal Communications Committee took a huge step toward net neutrality by reclassifying broadband as a common carrier under a section of the Telecommunications Act.

The details of the FCC’s latest ruling, called Open Internet, are not public. So far only a brief summary is available. 

The lack of information on such a controversial and important decision has many critics concerned and comparing the situation to Obamacare’s broad reach in health care reform.

“It is very similar in the sense that the government is reaching in to a new area of control. Certainly there is always reason to have caution when that happens. We learned it the hard way with the health care legislation. There are a lot of surprises may be in there and we can’t necessarily trust what the committee members are coming up with,” said Warner.

Reactions to net neutrality are mixed.  Warner explains that there is the need for more free market related to internet access.

“When it comes to internet providing ... you don’t have many choices ... you may have no choice in who you choose. So basically what a lot of people would argue is, if you look at broadband access in countries other than the US, we actually have poor access and high prices for what we pay for internet. Essentially you don’t have a free market operating very easily ... because telecommunications companies ... have control of price and there as much free market competition.”

Now the FCC has sought to treated the internet like a utility, such as cable or telephone service, which gives the governemnt more control over the service.

According to Warner, the question now is: “To what extent are they going to exercise this control over content?”

Some say the net neutrality attempts is in the interest of Religious Liberty. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)  encouraged the FCC’s latest move.

“The Internet is a critical medium for religious speech. Radio, broadcast television and cable television are, in large part, closed to noncommercial religious messages,” said Bishop Wester, who chairs the USCCB’s Communications Committee. “Today, the FCC restores this protection for speakers, protection particularly important to noncommercial religious speakers.”

Yet, Warner also highlights some concerns about the slippery slope of the government regulating internet content.

Listen to the show to find out more.

 

5 Reasons to Fast During Lent

In the second part of the show, I talk with Catholic author Emily Stimpson (who blogs at TheCatholicTable.com) about her latest Register column: 5 Reasons to Fast This Lent.

The column and the radio show began with the high-energy lead:

“Jesus did it. The apostles and early Christians did it. The Fathers and doctors of the Church and most every saint you can think of ... did it.

But we don’t. At least, most of us don’t.

What don’t we do?

We don’t fast.”

The show delves into why we don’t do fast and why we would be better off if we did?

“There are a lot of reasons. A time people have worried that perhaps fasting is legalism or perhaps they are being too scrupulous. Of course what they really need to do is to fast from a lack of charity. So they priorities one good, being charitable, over another, fasting. We kind of  approach spiritual practices with an either/or mindset,” said Stimpson.

“But also we live in a culture of abundance. We actually do fast but we don’t call it fasting: We diet. We are always restricting what we eat for the sake of our body but we don’t think of restricting what we eat for the sake of our soul,” added Stimpson.

Why is hungering good for us?

Stimpson’s take:  “When I am hungry I get crabby and irritable and I have to work really hard to be kind to people ... fasting reduces us to who we really are. We are sinners we are week we are vulnerable. ... In that we are reminded that what we really need is God.”

“In our hunger, we hunger for God.  We depend on God.  We depend on god for grace so we can do good acts ... We are dependent creatures and fasting reminds of how weak and vulnerable we really are.”

Stimpson goes on to give valuable, practical tips on how to begin to fast – with realistic steps, that are “doable” yet make us recognize our hunger.

“If you have never fasted it is probably not a good idea to decide to live on bread and water for the next 40 days. We have to learn to strengthen our spiritual muscles and our ability to fast.”

“Let is a good time to start little fasts. Maybe it’s just fasting from cream and sugar, ... maybe it’s skipping a meal or a particular type of food,” suggests Stimpson.

And finally she lists the 5 ways fasting betters our lives. But for that you’ll have to read her column or listen to the show.