Friday, July 27, 2012

Facebook, Google, Amazon and eBay are reportedly among the companies that are banding together to form a new trade association of Internet companies that will advocate around technology issues in Congress, according to a new report.

The mission of the Internet Association? Lobbying for “political solutions that will push for a protecting a free and open Internet” and to defend the Internet from what its members view as excessive regulation, according to Beckerman.

“Nobody knows what’s next,” said Beckerman. “The Internet is based on creativity and it’s highly competitive. We can’t guess today what innovation will come tomorrow or what next startup will launch tomorrow and how they’re going to impact the greater economy. Because we don’t know what next innovation is, we need to be mindful of regulation to ensure it doesn’t stifle creativity.”

The term “Internet company” has become incredibly broad over the last decade nearly every company relies in some way on the Internet, even if it’s not Facebook or Google. That point wasn’t lost on Beckerman, who said that the Internet Association will also highlight the Internet’s importance to the overall economy.

“When most people think of Internet companies, they think of Silicon Valley and cyberspace but part of our message is that the Internet has become main street America,” said Beckerman. “Almost every small business uses the Internet and real growth is happening as a result of the Internet. The companies that are going to be members of this association are web-based, but part of our messaging to the Hill and to regulators is that brick-and-mortar businesses in every part of the country rely on the services of the Internet as well.”

Many of the biggest online companies have been ramping up their individual lobbying efforts in Washington over the past few years, but they have thus far gone without an organized trade association to fight for their collective interests (ISPs, who won’t be included in the Internet Association, have the U.S. Internet Industry Association).

Users of Internet companies’ services don’t always agree with decisions made by those companies, but Beckerman said the Internet Association won’t turn a deaf ear to users’ interests.

“We look forward to working with [users],” said Beckerman. “In the technology world, there’s always been a close relationship between companies and users because it’s such a competitive industry, so users have real say in the direction in which companies go. Companies and their users don’t always se eye-to-eye on every issue, but we’ll make a real effort to reach out to real users.”

Beckerman who is formerly Deputy Staff Director at the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees Internet policy wouldn’t confirm any of the unannounced members to Mashable, saying only that the Internet Association has “a broad group of members,” including “companies of various sizes, some we’d classify as startups.”

However, a Reuters report cited “a person close to the group” had confirmed that Facebook, Google, Amazon and eBay will be among the initial members. The full roster of members will be officially released when the organization launches in September.

Some companies have already joined with non-profits and individuals in the Internet Defense League, a grassroots organization formed to defend the open Internet.