By Sara Jerome - 08/23/10 01:24 PM EDT
A bipartisan coalition in favor of net neutrality has lost a key conservative supporter amid signs that the issue is becoming more divisive.
The Gun Owners of America (GOA) severed ties with the net-neutrality coalition Save the Internet after a conservative blog questioned the association with liberal organizations such as ACORN and the ACLU.
The blog RedState described Save The Internet as a "neo-Marxist Robert McChesney-FreePress/Save the Internet think tank" and questioned why GOA would participate in a coalition that includes liberal groups such as the ACLU, MoveOn.Org, SEIU, CREDO and ACORN.
GOA was one of the charter members of Save the Internet, but a spokesman for the gun rights group said times have changed.
"Back in 2006 we supported net neutrality, as we had been concerned that AOL and others might continue to block pro-second amendment issues," said Erich Pratt, communications director for GOA.
"The issue has now become one of government control of the Internet, and we are 100 percent opposed to that," Pratt said.
Save The Internet had long pointed to the support of gun owners as evidence that net neutrality is a nonpartisan issue.
Net-neutrality advocates are struggling to maintain bipartisan support during an election season that has cast the issue along party lines.
Last month, 35 Tea Party groups came out against net neutrality in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The letter accused the FCC of “relentlessly pursuing a massive regulatory regime” that would stifle the growth of the Internet.
The FCC is considering a move to boost its authority over broadband providers through a controversial process known as reclassification. The process could give federal regulators the power to impose net-neutrality rules, which would prevent Internet access providers from favoring some content and applications over others.
Tim Karr, the campaign director for Save the Internet, cited the midterm election season to explain why net neutrality is increasingly cast along partisan lines.
"Anytime you approach an election, these issues tend to be politicized," he said.
Still, Karr said Save The Internet views net neutrality as a free speech issue rather than a liberal or conservative one. He noted the group’s membership still includes a number of conservative groups, including the socially conservative Parents Television Council and the Christian Coalition.