A new trade group representing the nation's top Internet companies has named Michael Beckerman as its first president and CEO ahead of its official launch in September.
Simply named The Internet Association, the group is billing itself as the "voice of the Internet" in Washington. The organization is positioning itself as a force that will fight efforts to regulate the Web economy.
"It's the first time that the Internet is coming together as an industry here in Washington," Beckerman told the Alley in his first interview atop the new organization.
But what exactly the group will do remains to be seen. Beckerman, a former House Energy and Commerce Committee deputy staff director, would not name his member companies, discuss his budget or explain what issues the group will advocate. Much of that, he said, will be revealed when the organization officially launches September 19th.
An industry source familiar with the group's plans said that Google, Amazon, eBay and Facebook will be among the association's charter members.
And Beckerman did give some hint about what is motivating his member companies, saying that the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act served as a wake-up call to the industry.
"It was a major threat to the structure of the Internet and the industry as a whole. It would have had a catastrophic impact on jobs and the economy beyond cyberspace," he said. "And issues like that, they just come up out of nowhere where we just want to make sure we educate everybody so that doesn't happen again."
Beckerman's organization will be selling its "hands off the Internet" message by trying to demonstrate its role as an engine of economic growth. The general gist seems to be, the Internet economy is working, don't mess with it.
In Beckerman, the Internet Association gets a Republican veteran of Capitol Hill with longstanding ties to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and a background in telecom and Internet policy.
But the group will face challenges, namely Washington's already fragmented tech advocacy space. At a time when several tech associations are talking mergers, the Internet Association is betting that its members will be better served by a new voice.
Even the industry's most ardent supporters on the Hill, like Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Silicon Valley, concede that the industry has a long way to go toward becoming an effective lobbying force and powerful Washington player.
Photo credit: Lauren Carroll, National Journal
Clarification: The name of the group has been updated. It is to be called The Internet Association.