Internet Lobby Looks Beyond SOPA

Premiere of Silicon Prairie documentary shows path

The Internet community is getting its lobby act together, sort of. At the very least, it has more associations than ever before representing its interests in Washington. “The more the better,” said Michael Petricone, the Consumer Electronics Association’s svp of government affairs.

But more won’t necessarily turn the minds of lawmakers and regulators. And unlike last year when the community rallied around potential piracy laws that could have harmed the Internet, there is no single flash point around which to organize.

For the most part, the Internet community is still fixated on that victory.

Some of the same Internet leaders that spearheaded the fights against the piracy laws are looking to a video titled Silicon Prairie to help galvanize the online community and convince lawmakers that the Internet is more than Silicon Valley.

Tuesday’s premiere of the 22-minute documentary at the opening of the International Consumer Electronics Show chronicled a bus tour from Denver to Danville, Ky., organized by Reddit, to showcase how the Internet was bringing innovation to the heartland, the Silicon prairie.

Comprised mostly of talking-head testimonials with shots of small business owners and farmers heaping platitudes on how the Web saved and grew businesses, the documentary is modest but authentic.

As Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian put it, “This is the real story" of the Internet.

Based on the video, a strategy is emerging of how Ohanian and other Internet evangelists intend to convince lawmakers to tread carefully when it comes to laws that could impact the industry.

“The more we can get into positive stories, quantify how many jobs the Internet is creating in sectors and how it impacts peoples’ lives, the more you can start getting into congressional members’ minds,” said Michael Beckerman, the Internet Association’s president and CEO.

Washington, D.C., will get its look at the documentary on Jan. 15, nearly a year to the day that the Internet community beat back anti-piracy bills SOPA and PIPA.

From there, the lobby path is less certain. Beckerman suggested that each individual Internet business needed to contact its own congressional members “so that when a bill comes around, the Congress member or senator knows they talked to their constituents. That matters to every elected representative, and it changes the dialogue.”