Internet heavies back new Net-policy group
(IDG) -- Nine leading Internet companies raised their visibility in Washington D.C. on Monday, when they announced a new lobbying group that seeks to become the voice of the Internet industry on policy issues.
The group, called NetCoalition.com, includes such Internet heavyweights as America Online, Amazon.com, eBay, Lycos and Yahoo! For many of the member companies, this group represents a first step into the political realm. Only two of the member companies -- America Online and Yahoo! -- had Washington representation prior to the group's launch.
The group, which has been in the works for about six months, will focus on the 150 Internet-related bills that were introduced in Congress this year. Specific areas of interest include privacy, consumer protection and international trade.
"We want to be active participants in the dialogue that is addressing the critical issues facing the burgeoning Internet industry," says Meg Whitman, president and CEO of eBay. "As a group, we can be a valuable resource and a powerful educational tool for policymakers and the public."
The group's membership is restricted to companies whose sole business is on the Internet. "We didn't want to have conflicting interests," one member explains. "All the members are pure Internet companies, either portals or destination sites."
To start, the group has one staff member, lobbyist Daniel Ebert, a former Hill staffer with experience in encryption issues. The members of the group have funded the organization for one year but expect it to last much longer. No individual company is leading the group. Each member has one vote on important issues, and the members will decide together whether to add other companies.
"We expect a high level of corporate involvement in this group because of the broad range of public policy issues it plans to be involved in," says AOL Spokesman Andrew Weinstein.
Other participants in the group include DoubleClick, Excite@Home", Inktomi and theglobe.com. Together, these companies represent seven of the top 10 Internet sites, and more than 90% of the world's Internet users visit one of these sites every month.
For eBay, participation in NetCoalition.com is an important step in the company's ongoing efforts to be more vocal on Internet policy issues, particularly those that relate to privacy.
"Until now, our presence in D.C. has been restricted to every 4 to 6 weeks when I come to town," says Brad Handler, associate general counsel and director of law and public policy. "When I first started coming to town a year and a half ago, nobody had heard of eBay. Now policymakers are familiar with us, but it makes sense for us to pool our resources with other Internet companies."
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