Gun Owners Make Neutrality Case To Conservatives

The Gun Owners of America sent out an op ed piece to conservative news outlets Monday explaining why it has teamed with the bane of the far right,, in the fight for network neutrality.

Network neutrality, or how much control broadband networks have over their pipes, is one of the key issues in telecommunications reform legislation currently being debated in Congress.

Below, from Craig Fields, director of Internet operations for the Gun Owners, and complete with metaphors about golf balls, garden hoses, and marbles, are highlights from the explanation being offered to outlets like CNS News, worldNetDaily, and conservative radio talk show hosts.

"What the Misguided Have Missed Regarding Network Neutrality

"The concept of Network Neutrality has unfortunately been misunderstood by many conservatives, libertarians, and other champions of the free market. That’s too bad, because the free market essence of the Internet is exactly what would be lost without Network Neutrality.

"The large telecoms, some politicians and a number of conservative pundits have characterized the push for Network Neutrality as a left-wing attempt to stifle innovation and put government bureaucrats in control of the Internet. Well, it’s not. Through my work with Gun Owners of America, I am demonstratively a lot further to the right than they are.
"It is true that the largest member of the coalition looking to regain Network Neutrality is – and they are usually my political enemies. But Gun Owners and groups like Brent Bozell’s Parents Television Council have done did what many on the right don’t seem to have: our homework.

"One of the most telling points is that what the coalition is trying to get codified is what we have had all along as the Internet was developed. In all of those years, Network Neutrality was policy… until August of 2005, when the FCC changed the rules. How can this policy stifle innovation and competition when the Internet has been a roaring success in those areas for decades?

"The real problem is that we are under a distorted market from the get-go. Government is setting the rules. The result has been a government-supported oligopoly. We are lucky that those controlling physical access to the Internet have been forced to give every purchaser of bandwidth equal access – it doesn’t matter whether Gun Owners or the Brady Center is purchasing a T-1: all T-1 purchasers pay the same for the same level of service. And moreover, the phone company has to tough it if they don’t like what is being done with that bandwidth (such as this column).

"This goes all the way back to Ma Bell – after all, the physical infrastructure of the Internet is the nation’s phone lines. And just as I-95 is the only Interstate we have between Richmond and the Beltway, no one is going to build a competing physical Internet.

"But people are going to build new Burger Kings along the highways. Suppose, however, that AT&T owned I-95. And that they inked an exclusive deal with Wendy’s. Or bowed to pressure from food Nazis and said no burgers at all from Florida to Maine.

"What we think of as the free market nature of the Internet is only possible because the oligopoly has been forced to keep its hands off of what actually gets done with the infrastructure they control.

"In a truly free market, Network Neutrality would not be necessary, as good old American competition would drive the very best service up the ladder of success. But as long as government is setting the rules for a handful of companies, the rules have to include statutory Network Neutrality to ensure those companies can’t unilaterally shut down what the innovators are doing. If they had any choice, telephone companies would not have allowed Instant Messaging or Voice over Internet – those things directly compete with their largest moneymaking service!

"But it can be worse than that. Large telecoms have internal anti-gun policies. If they were allowed to, what’s to stop them from slowing or blocking content they disagree with?

Another wrong argument made by the misguided is that the leftists are trying to institute price controls, forcing companies to charge the same for high bandwidth video as for quick-flying e-mail. Or as one writer put it, charge the same for a golf ball and a marble being sent through garden hoses. Nope. That bigger, more expensive hose required to deliver the golf ball? Network Neutrality merely means that all who buy that particular hose get the same hose at the same price and can’t be denied the chance to lawfully use it.

It’s a funny way to have to think of it, true, but as long as Congress is making the rules for a handful of major companies in providing the infrastructure, it has to make certain those companies give equal access to all comers. That’s the way it has been for the very lifetime of the free and open Internet we’re all interested in maintaining.