Watch out for Washington

Watch out for Washington

A fledgling techno-political group plans to hit Comdex show attendees with a frightening message next week: Washington is after your industry.

Launched about 18 months ago, the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT) bills itself as a grassroots effort to keep IT industry players plugged into the goings-on in Washington, particularly in light of current events such as the Microsoft antitrust trial, the debate over whether to tax Internet transactions, and the US Federal Communications Commission's continuing role in regulating the telecommunications industry.

Indeed, there is a lot going on, according to Jonathan Zuck, a software programmer turned trade association president.

"Our organisation is very concerned about the growing regulatory sniffing going on in Washington. We view with some concern the fact that the number of bills affecting the IT industry has gone from zero to 400 in just a few years," Zuck said.

ACT differs from other trade associations, Zuck said. "It was not started by lawyers and lobbyists. Instead it grew out of rising concern among CEOs from small-to-medium companies that Washington was taking a growing interest in IT."

Mid-sized tech companies, such as Visio, along with smaller players, such as software companies Sax and Sheridan, founded the organisation. But lately, larger players, such as Microsoft, Intel, and CompUSA, have gotten on board, Zuck said.

ACT officials hope to capitalise on anti-regulatory sentiment generated by last week's verdict in the Microsoft antitrust trial. The association will put on a full-court press at Comdex, where it will hammer home its intent to be the industry's "fresh voice in Washington" - in part by giving away free mints after the popular Micrografx Chili for Children Cook-off.

ACT recently got 50 companies to co-sign a letter to the FCC encouraging the agency to stay out of the brewing broadband access issues.

"We think competition in the industry is the best arbiter," Zuck said in reference to both the broadband and Microsoft issues.

"All of the activity that we have seen lately seems to be a harbinger of aggressive government intervention into one of the most successful sectors of the economy," Zuck said. "Washington is waking up to IT, so IT needs to wake up to Washington."

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