In a landmark vote, the Federal Communications Commission for the first time has classified Internet providers as public utilities.
Like everyone in business, the national religious broadcast community is trying to figure out how to navigate changing technology, shifting business models, and new rules concerning content delivery.
We’re all working on new strategies.
For a quick primer, here’s a New York Times video that pretty simply explains what net neutrality is and why you should care.
The sweeping set of new “net neutrality” rules are supposed to keep providers of high-speed Internet access such as Verizon and Time Warner Cable from blocking Web sites they don’t like or auctioning off faster traffic speeds to the highest bidders.
Cable and telecommunications companies, and some GOP lawmakers, have condemned the move as an overreach of government intervention into businesses, and lawsuits are expected to follow.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said GOP lawmakers will work on a less aggressive law for net neutrality that doesn’t allow for broadband to be classified as a utility service.
Internet access and video distribution issues are complicated, from a technical and business perspective, and legally.
Whatever happens to the new FCC ruling, a few observations for religious broadcasters to consider:
- In the general marketplace, the online world is beginning to look more like the offline world, with content creators and distributors aligning with one another to wield greater power and efficiencies.
- Historically, in the offline world of Christian radio and television, content producers, distributors, and broadcasters have thrived through interdependence. Working together to advance the kingdom will be even more important in the online world of converged content creation and distribution.
- Having the ability to build Internet-scale content distribution capabilities is critical to expanding networks across the U.S., and globally. Global companies are building massive internet infrastructure. The big guys just keep getting bigger.
- In this new phase of the digital age, the religious broadcast industry will turn more and more to collaboration to compete in a marketplace controlled by a few companies that have the scale and capital. Building and deploying distribution networks combined with free video packages is one way to be more competitive.
The Internet, as we know it today, makes it possible for anyone to easily launch innovative applications and services, to communicate the gospel, participate with believers and non-belivers, create and distribute content, and do ministry and business.
As net neutrality regulation plays out, religious communicators must tighten the ranks to ensure that, wherever the power and control ultimately falls, Christian content distribution is not shut out.