America Online Inc. and the regional Bell operating
companies have their lobbying group, the OpenNet Coalition, and now cable has one of its
own: Net Compete Now.
The group launched last week with presentations by board
members including Julia Johnson, vice president of communications and marketing for
Military Commercial Technologies Inc., and Julian Bond, chairman of the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
But it has 60 supporting members including Adelphia
Business Solutions Inc.; the state cable associations of Arizona, California, Georgia,
Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Texas, South Carolina and Wisconsin; and the
National Cable Television Association.
Open-access targets Excite@Home Corp. and Road Runner, the
MSO-backed data-over-cable providers, also support the group.
And the roster boasts some interesting political friends of
the industry, such as a Democratic ward politician from Boston and a member of the city of
Los Angeles' Board of Information Technology Commissioners.
The group's message: Competition will take care of
access issues without government intervention. The group sees no diminution in the need
for a lobby against open access even though telecommunications giants such as AOL and
merger partner Time Warner Inc. have vowed to ultimately open their high-speed-data
"The time is still now, the fight is still now. Seven
states have legislation still pending. The market is working, and we have to tell
legislators that," Johnson said.
The initial task for the group will be to contact
legislators in states considering open-access bills and get them "to see our
side," she said, adding, "We need to start the advocacy yesterday."
Net Compete Now has the support of groups such as the Small
Business Survival Committee. Its chair, Karen Kerrigan, said small businesses are
frequently the ones that get "kneecapped by government regulations."
Reporters noted that many of the supporters of the OpenNet
Coalition are small Internet-service providers. Kerrigan responded, "Watch what you
wish for, you may get it. There are costs that may be incurred, and the big guys may win
Small ISPs should develop their own sound business models.
Government involvement is an outmoded business model doomed to failure, she added.
The coalition also presented video testimony from small
businesses, such as an accounting firm in Sioux Falls, S.D. Its employees said they are
able to compete with the big firms in New York or Chicago because they can
cost-effectively access the same data using a choice of cable modems, T-1 phone lines,
digital subscriber lines or satellite-delivered data.
Board member William Hudnut III, a former congressman and
Indianapolis mayor, added, "Anything we can do to unleash the power of the private
sector is best."
Net Compete Now will launch a membership campaign soon,
Johnson said, to attract consumers, small businesses, "the rich, the poor, churches
whoever will listen."
Net Compete Now is based in Washington, D.C., and it has a
Web site (www.netcompetenow.com).