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National Internet group organizes locally

Hoping to encourage solidarity among ISPs and online professionals, the Association for Online Professionals will announce an effort to strengthen the voice of Net businesses at the city and state level.

Hoping to encourage solidarity among Internet service providers and online professionals, a national organization will announce on Monday an effort to strengthen the voice of Net businesses at the city and state level.

The Association of Online Professionals plans to announce a program that will encourage local businesses in the online and Internet industry to form regional chapters to gain a more powerful role in regulatory and legislative issues, Dave McClure, executive director of the AOP, said today.

The AOP already has a single U.S. organization with members such as Bell Atlantic, Prodigy, and Hayes Microcomputer, as well as an affiliate organization in Venezuela, Telematicos Professionales.

But while the AOP's national organization has been involved in fighting issues such as the Communications Decency Act, cities and states are increasingly becoming flashpoints for Internet-related issues, such as ISP taxation. In August, one of the first regional ISP organizations formed, the Florida Internet Service Providers Association (FISPA), in order to fight, among other things, Florida's hotly contested efforts to tax ISPs.

By forming local chapters, the AOP hopes to encourage more solidarity among Internet and online businesses, which will be able to react more quickly and effectively to issues that affect them, McClure said.

"The problem we have is finding out about local issues quickly enough to take some sort of action." said McClure. "Part of the value that professionals have is meeting more than once a year."

According to McClure, the AOP chapters will not be solely dedicated to legislative issues, but will enable members to share technical information and other expertise. The new AOP regional program will seek to form associations in the United States, as well as in Europe, India, Asia, and South America.

Some experts believe regional ISP associations will become increasingly important as more state and city governments take an interest in Internet service.

"Right now ISPs and even computer vendors have very little voice," said Jerry Michalski, managing editor at industry newsletter Release 1.0. "There's a lot of legislation happening at the local level."