Amazon, Google, Facebook, eBay and other Internet companies have announced backing for The Internet Association, a trade group of online businesses, officially launched yesterday with plans 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,” said Michael Beckerman, the group’s president and CEO.
The member companies of The Internet Association also include Expedia, IAC, LinkedIn, Monster, Rackspace, Salesforce, Shoebuy, TripAdvisor, Yahoo and Zynga.
“At Facebook, we recognize how critical it is for Internet companies to stand together,” says Facebook VP of U.S. public policy Joel Kaplan. “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, The Internet Association wants to make sure that legislators and policymakers understand the weighty and positive impact of the Internet and Internet companies on jobs, economic growth, freedom and creativity.
EBay vice president, global government relations Tod Cohen added: “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.”
Although its members compete for Internet traffic and customers, as in the case of Expedia and TripAdvisor, the group is united in their interest in having an Internet that is friendly to business and unencumbered by excessive regulation. “These companies are all fierce competitors in the market place, but they recognize the Internet needs a unified voice in Washington,” said Beckerman. “They understand the future of the Internet is at stake and that we must work together to protect it.”
The group indicated 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.
While the group did not mention specific government policies or legislation that it intends to focus on, other Washington insiders say that the group’s major concerns are supporting Net Neutrality and to opposed pending federal anti-piracy legislation. The goal of net neutrality is to ensure that telecommunications companies provide access on equal terms to all websites, including those with heavy bandwidth-clogging video content. The pending anti-piracy legislation wants to prevent the sale of counterfeit goods, a stance supported by many retailers; however, opponents contend the legislation under consideration would give authorities too much power to shut down websites 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,” said Beckerman. “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 (Web Enabled Retailers Helping Expand Retail Employment) coalition, which is backed by eBay and is advocating on behalf of small online merchants opposed to laws requiring them to collect sales tax. We R Here contends that tax collecting would crush the growth and job-creation potential of small online retailers.