Video Access Alliance

 

 

Video Access Alliance has the dubious distinction of being exposed as a front group by a Member of Congress.

 

On March 30, 2006, Video Access Alliance (VAA) Chairman Julia Johnson offered testimony to the House Commerce Committee in support of national franchising and in opposition to any provisions that would require telephone companies to "build out" their services to poor, rural or minority neighborhoods.  After her testimony, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) questioned Johnson about her motivations:

 

Markey:  Is your organization financially supported by the Bell [telephone] companies in any way?

Johnson:  No, we're not.

Markey:  At all.

Johnson:  Yes, and let me elaborate upon that too. We're a relatively new organization.

Markey:  No, that's OK. I can go along with that answer. That's fine. Thank you.  And are you 
compensated in any way by the Bell companies?

Johnson:  I have a consulting firm that works for a variety of companies, generally in the regulatory space.

Markey:  But are the Bell companies amongst those companies that pay you?

Johnson:  Yes.

Markey:  OK. Thank you.[26]

Ms. Johnson did her best to hide the relationship between her organization and the telephone industry, but aggressive questioning from Congressman Markey revealed the truth.  Ms. Johnson's consulting firm is NetCommunications, which describes itself as "a strategic consulting firm specializing in the energy, communications, water and information technology public policy arenas"[27] that works to "formulate and drive public policy decisions that will help create a thriving business environment for our clients."[28]

 

At the time of the House Commerce Committee hearing, NetCommunications and the Video Access Alliance were enjoying a cozy relationship, at least in the geographic sense:  The two organizations share office space, according to the address that VAA gave to the Commerce Committee[29] and the mailing address listed on NetCommunications' web site.[30]  Video Access Alliance has since acquired a post office box to receive its mail.  Smart move for a group that obviously has something to hide.

 

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[26]  Hearing on Pay Television Competition, Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, FDCH transcripts, 30 March 2006.
[27]  NetCommunications, "About Us," at http://netcommworks.com/about_us.html (last visited 4 Aug. 2006).
[28]  NetCommunications, "Our Mission," at http://netcommworks.com/index.html  (last visited 4 Aug. 2006).
[29]  U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Energy and Commerce, "Witness Testimony of Ms. Julia Johnson, Video Access Alliance," at http://energycommerce.house.gov/108/Hearings/
03302006hearing1823/Johnson2811.htm (last visited 4 Aug. 2006).
[30]  NetCommunications, "Contact Us," at http://netcommworks.com/contact_us.html (last visited 4 Aug. 2006).