Technology

NetCoalition winds down operations

Those shops helped spearhead NetCoalition’s legislative strategy as the group fought the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) — controversial bills that lawmakers shelved in January after a wave of online protests.

Markham Erickson, the executive director of the group, confirmed that NetCoalition would close its doors after it finalizes two pending matters in the D.C. Circuit Court. The newly launched Internet Association will replace it.

“At the end of the day, ultimately NetCoalition will wind down and the Internet Association will take its place on the issues NetCoalition worked on,” said Erickson, who will serve as the outside counsel for the Internet Association.

“We have [litigation] before the D.C. Circuit, but ultimately the Internet Association will fully replace NetCoalition,” he added.

NetCoalition got its start at the end of the 1990s when Silicon Valley really caught fire. Some of its early members included DoubleClick, AOL, Amazon and the search engine Lycos. NetCoalition’s most recent roster included Yahoo, eBay, IAC, PayPal, Bloomberg, Amazon, Expedia and Google — sometimes referred to as “the great eight.”

All of those companies, save PayPal and Bloomberg, are among the inaugural members of the Internet Association, along with other top Web companies such as Zynga, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Industry sources say the companies backed launching a new trade group because they wanted a more robust presence in Washington with a full-time director, policy staff and office space.

Erickson had served as NetCoalition’s executive director while simultaneously running his law practice Holch & Erickson. The group also retained outside lobbying and public relations firms, such as the Glen Echo Group, to help push its policy agenda.

“The Internet Association will bring more in-house manpower and resources to the table than NetCoalition did,” said one House aide, who added that its policy scope was also very narrow. “NetCoalition was much leaner in its personnel structure than your typical trade association.”

Michael Beckerman, a former top aide to House and Energy Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), was named the head of the Internet Association in July. Including Beckerman, the group has four full-time employees and is looking to hire more staff in the near-term. The association’s headquarters are in downtown Washington.

The Internet companies also wanted to form the new association because it gives them a clean slate on policy issues, according to a representative of one of the member companies.

NetCoalition, on the other hand, was already viewed on the Hill as a net-neutrality advocate and one of the most vocal opponents of SOPA and PIPA.

Erickson declined to comment further on NetCoalition’s plans to close and referred questions about the views of member companies to the Internet Association 

When asked for comment, Beckerman said in a statement that its members “recognize the need to have a unified voice in the policy debates and have come together to have a seat at the table.”

“The Internet is all about economic growth, innovation, creativity and job creation,” he said. “The Internet Association is here to tell that story.”

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