A sign, if you needed one, of how big tech companies have become, how central they would like to be in the world of policymaking — and how they may be getting nervous about heavier regulation down the line: a new lobbying group is being formed called The Internet Association, with charter members reportedly including Google, Amazon, eBay and Facebook. The group, due to launch formally in September, has made very little noise up to now, but today it announced the appointment of a president and CEO — Washington insider Michael Beckerman — to lead it in a more public effort.
The news comes in the same week that it was revealed that Google’s budget for lobbying went up by 90 percent in the last quarter to nearly $4 million (on par with large telcos like Verizon), while Facebook’s went up by 200 percent to $960,000, according to Reuters.
The Internet Association is being formed because, in the words of its new CEO, “The Internet must have a voice in Washington.” The group is planning a more formal launch, including revealing the names of its members and more about its purpose, in September.
On first look, this association will be mostly a lobby group. Its purpose, according to a release sent to TechCrunch, will be “to advance public policy solutions that strengthen and protect an open, innovative and free Internet.” What makes it perhaps more noteworthy is that it looks like its ambition is to be the primary lobbying group for large tech companies.
D.C. magazine the National Journal got the scoop on the news. It cited an unnamed source who said that companies already committed to the effort include Google, Amazon, eBay and Facebook. TechCrunch has since confirmed that list with its own source.
These companies, of course, also are involved with other lobbying efforts — both their own and around specific causes like broadband policy — but this could be the first group to represent all together on a general policy basis.
Part of the effort is not so much to burst the bubble of influence in Silicon Valley that these companies have; as it is to try to make a more concerted effort to extend that influence to Washington, presumably to make sure that the companies get as lightly regulated as possible.
“The Internet isn’t just Silicon Valley anymore, the Internet has moved to Main Street,” said Beckerman in a statement.”Our top priority is to ensure that elected leaders in Washington understand the profound impacts of the Internet and Internet companies on jobs, economic growth and freedom.
“No one can predict what innovations will happen next. But we do know that the Internet’s decentralized and open model is what has enabled its unprecedented growth and innovation. We must guard against misguided attempts to handcuff this incredible source of job creation, freedom and creativity.”
Prior to this appointment, Beckerman held a number of other advisory and policy roles in Washington. They included a job as deputy staff director to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, the group that oversees U.S. telecoms and Internet policy. He had also been an advisor to Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), and before that Upton’s chief policy advisor.
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