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Taking Aim at Telecom Reform

Now we know why the Gun Owners of America's Craig Fields has joined Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, and Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, to push for network neutrality guarantees in upcoming telecom legislation.

Fields acknowledged Monday on a conference call to launch, that he was far to the right of the others in the coalition, but said it was necessary to stop the telcos from controlling the Internet.

Their target is a telecommunications reform bill that would pave the way for a national media franchise that would include high-speed internet service. The House version of the bill--the only one marked up so far--allows the FCC to determine when network neutrality has been violated, then punish it. But the commission would not have the authority to write rules of network neutrality. Without that express authority, bill critics including the new coalition argue, there would be too much room for abuse. House Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.) argues that, with no clear definition even of what network neutrality is, it would be virtually impossible to write rules guaranteeing it.

Fields pointed out that his group, which is primarily a gun lobby, had been able to use the internet to respond more quickly on issues that otherwise might have moved to quickly to draw a bead on. He suggested part of the reason for Washington support for a video franchising bill that does not have tough network neutrality protections is that some politicians don't want groups like his to have the the increased flexibility to respond to issues that the Internet has made possible.

Saying the telcos had internal anti-gun policies, Fields said they should not be allowed to be an Internet gatekeeper. Even without the political bias, he said, greed would take over and they would disfavor competitors.

While he called his group "pretty much free market guys," he also said that, ironically, "we have the necessity of government intervention to assure a free marketplace of ideas."