Online heavyweights form a national trade group
September 20, 2012 11:19 AM
The Internet Association, a trade group backed by online businesses including Amazon.com Inc., eBay Inc., Facebook Inc. and Google Inc., officially launched yesterday with a promise to advocate in Washington, D.C., for a “free and innovative” Internet. “A free and innovative Internet is vital to our nation’s economic growth,” says Michael Beckerman, the group’s president and CEO.
Member companies of The Internet Association also include Expedia, IAC, LinkedIn, Monster Worldwide, Rackspace, Salesforce.com, TripAdvisor, Yahoo Inc. and online games provider Zynga Inc. IAC’s IACInteractiveCorp includes Shoebuy.com Inc., No. 90 in the Internet Retailer Top 500. Amazon is No. 1 in the Top 500.
“At Facebook, we recognize how critical it is for Internet companies to stand together,” says Joel Kaplan, the social network’s vice president of U.S. public policy. “That's why we're pleased to be part of the Internet Association, which will provide a unified voice for the Internet economy in Washington. By working together on common concerns and partnering with tens of millions of Internet users, this group will ensure that policymakers understand the profound positive impacts of the Internet and Internet companies on jobs, economic growth, freedom and creativity."
Adds Tod Cohen, vice president, global government relations at eBay: “I am excited that The Internet Association is going to be focused on policies that keep the Internet open and vibrant on behalf of users and businesses of all sizes.”
Amazon declined to comment. Others did not immediately return requests for comment.
Although its members compete for Internet traffic—and in some cases for the same customers as with travel services companies Expedia and TripAdvisor—they’re united in their interest in having an Internet that is friendly to business and unencumbered by excessive regulation, Beckerman says. “These companies are all fierce competitors in the market place, but they recognize the Internet needs a unified voice in Washington,” he says. “They understand the future of the Internet is at stake and that we must work together to protect it.”
The group says it will advocate in Washington on behalf of Internet business in three general areas: “protecting Internet freedom, fostering innovation and economic growth, and empowering users.” It adds that it will educate government policy makers “on the profound impacts of the Internet and Internet companies on jobs, economic growth, commerce, productivity and education,” among other things.
Although the group declined to mention specific government policies or legislation that it intends to focus on, other Washington lobbyists say that among the group’s main concerns is supporting “net neutrality” and to opposed pending federal anti-piracy legislation. Net neutrality aims to ensure that telecommunications companies provide access on equal terms to all web sites, including those with lots of bandwidth-clogging video content. Anti-piracy legislation seeks to prevent the sale of counterfeit goods, a stance supported by many retailers, but opponents contend the legislation under discussion would give authorities too much leeway to shut down web sites based on complaints from copyright holders.
“The Internet is the fastest growing sector of the U.S. economy with an unparalleled record of job creation and innovation across all sectors,” Beckerman says. “It is the Internet’s decentralized and open model that has unleashed unprecedented entrepreneurialism, creativity and innovation. Policymakers must understand that the preservation of that freedom is essential to the vitality of the Internet itself and the resulting economic prosperity.”
The Internet Association is one of several groups formed in recent months to advocate in Washington as well as state capitals on behalf of online retailers and other Internet businesses. The most recent group to form is the We R Here coalition, which is backed by eBay and is advocating on behalf of small online merchants opposed to laws requiring them to collect sales tax.