Acton Institute Powerblog

ICCR Proxy Resolutions Back Net Neutrality

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Blurring the distinction between religious faith and totally unrelated political activism has attained new levels of absurdity during the 2013 proxy resolution voting season.

One needs look no further than the network neutrality proxy resolutions submitted to AT&T Inc. by a host of clergy and religious organizations for evidence. These groups assert that net neutrality – described in their resolution as “open Internet policies” – “help drive the economy, encourage innovation and reward investors” when nothing could be further from the truth on all three counts.

Instead, the only groups advocating for net neutrality are left-of-center organizations who wish to shackle the profitability of Internet providers and stifle the growth of what has become one-sixth of the nation’s economy over the past 20 years. Joining these organizations with the AT&T proxy resolutions are the following Interfaith Council of Corporate Responsibility members:

  • Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica, Rose Marie Stallbaumer, OSB;
  • Trillium Asset Management Corporation, Jonas Kron;
  • Benedictine Sisters of Virginia, Sr. Henry Marie Zimmermann, OSB;
  • Christus Health, Delia Foster;
  • Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, Carolyn Psencik;
  • Nathan Cummings Foundation, Laura Shaffer Campos;
  • Congregation of Benedictine Sisters, Boerne TX, Sr. Susan Mika, OSB.

The resolution filed by these groups reads: “AT&T expects mobile data traffic to grow more than eight times from 2011 levels.

“A critical factor in this growth is the open (non-discriminatory) architecture of the Internet. Non-discrimination principles are commonly referred to as ‘network neutrality’ and seek to ensure equal access and non-discriminatory treatment for all content.”

Keep in mind that Comcast sued the Federal Communications Commission over net neutrality regulations in 2010 – and won in a unanimous decision by the three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Despite this, the FCC voted 3-2 along partisan lines in December 2010 to adopt net neutrality regulations – despite possessing no authority whatsoever to do so as only Congress can make such laws. These regulations are being challenged by Verizon Communications Inc. in the same court that heard the original case.

So, who favors net neutrality besides the ICCR proxy shareholders listed above? In September 2012, Free Press, Public Knowledge and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute – far-left liberal groups all – filed a complaint with the FCC that accused AT&T of violating the commission’s net neutrality rules. These staunch advocates of government-imposed net neutrality regulations are birds of a feather with the ICCR groups.

The left-leaning groups can be excused for holding a contrary point of view on any given number of topics, including net neutrality. Diversity of opinion, after all, is the American way.

However, the ICCR groups – most of them Roman Catholic in this instance – are squandering any religious authority they might possess on a liberal rather than theological issue.

Tito Edwards, editor of the Catholic Internet news aggregator The Pulpit and editorial contributor to The American Catholic Web site, told this writer in 2011 that clergy and religious champions of net neutrality “are violating free-market principles set out by the Catholic Church,” he said. “Controlling the Internet does no one any good as it is simply another step towards socialism and communism, both condemned by the Church.”

It should be mentioned that net neutrality poses serious negative threats to the U.S. economy, potentially costing consumers more than 500,000 jobs and eliminating $62 billion from GDP over the next 20 years; increase consumer Internet bills by up to $55 a month; and significantly deter technological innovation.

How this benefits America’s poor and middle class or fulfills the ICCR promise to “drive the economy, encourage innovation and reward investors” is a complete mystery.

Bruce Edward Walker has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. Most recently, he was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2007 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past three years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Midland, Mich., with his wife Katherine.

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