New Group Sends Message On Internet Regulation

In name choice alone, a newly-formed coalition of civic organizations, high-tech associations and a sprinkling of private companies send an emphatic message to elected officials about their view of government intervention in the Internet.

Washington, D.C.-based “Hands off the Internet” announced their formation Friday. It’s clear from their name and mission that the group wants the Internet to continue to grow and prosper with as little government attachment as possible.

“We intend to be a vehicle to express the view that the government – whether they be local, state of federal – should not impede the progress of the Internet,” Chris Wolf, the group’s president, told the E-Commerce Times Friday.

Wolf, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who specializes in high-tech law and has been called a “pioneer in Internet law” by MSNBC television, said the group hopes to serve in an educational capacity and intends to get together with other like-minded groups for conferences.

Advocates For Wide-Open Spaces

Like Montana cattle-ranchers, the members of the group could adopt the American folk ballad, “Don’t Fence Me In,” as its fight song. The group says it formed to address three areas of concern: Efforts to impose “discriminatory” taxation on Internet commerce; federal efforts to regulate methods of high-speed Internet access and efforts to regulate online advertising and content.

Those issues encompass just about every battleground in cyberspace. Wolf says the group intentionally broadened its focus to be able to shift to areas of concern with the appropriate speed.

The first leg of the Advisory Commission on Internet Commerce hearings was a bit rocky, he acknowledged. He claimed to be not familiar enough with the issue to address the commission’s controversial decision to appoint an executive director whose husband works for an industry trade association.

“I’m just grateful they got going,” Wolf said. “I’m optimistic that things will come out the right way.”

The “right way” to Hands off the Internet means no new taxes. Read their lips. Wolf said that brick and mortar retailers concern that e-commerce retailers have an unfair advantage are widely off the mark, particularly as many of them are shifting to e-commerce themselves.

Members of the group include AT&T, EstudentLoan, LLC, Americans for Tax Reform, Small Business Survival Committee, Americans for Sound Public Policy, the Texas Consumers Association and five other organizations.

As president, Wolf is paid by the members for his billable hours, he said. The group has received a federal non-profit status number and is actively seeking new members.

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