Last nights Champions of Competition Hall of Fame awards reception and dinner drew invitation-only attendees, as it has since the annual program began four years ago. This years honorees are George Vinall, executive vice president of business development for Talk America and FCC Commissioner Kevin J. Martin. The CompTel/ASCENT Alliance recognizes individuals who have demonstrated the vision and leadership necessary for guaranteeing that competition continues to be the driving force behind the evolution of the industry.
Vinall has been in telecom for more than 25 years, and the last five have proven to be some of his most inspiring. His career began with work as a PacBell computer programmer and he moved into the competitive side of the industry in 1979 with Southern Pacific Telecommunications, now Sprint. Vinall later worked for National Telephone Services and moved from there to become vice president of regulatory and government affairs for Cable & Wireless NA. Vinall then founded two ISPs for Cable & Wireless, and served as founder and general manager Cable & Wireless Internet Exchange. After running his own consulting firm, International Protocol LLC, Vinall joined Talk America in January of 1999 as executive vice president of business development. Talk America is one of the largest providers of residential UNE-P services in the United States.
Vinall boasts a long list of professional achievements. But perhaps his most impressive accomplishment is that, after being diagnosed with the neuromuscular disease ALS — or Lou Gehrigs disease — five years ago, he refused to retire or slow down. ALS is characterized by progressive muscle weakness that results in paralysis and death. Vinall says that in spite of his diagnosis, the impending crisis to the CLEC industry caused by the Triennial Review NPRM was too critical to ignore, so he formed the Competitive Working Group. He says the group, greatly aided by CompTel/ASCENT, helped align the competitive industry for the compromises contained in the eventual order.
Vinall says of himself: Armed with little more than a rickety wheelchair and a big mouth he tirelessly lobbied on the Hill and FCC. Although his work on the TRO helped prevent the elimination of UNE-P carriers, he failed in his crusade to fix the handicapped door on the eighth floor of the FCC, which remains broken to this day.
Walter G. Blackwell, president and COO of the CompTel/ASCENT Alliance, notes Vinall has moved seamlessly between the business and regulatory sides of the competitive industry.
This ability has given him a unique perspective on the value and impact that regulatory and public policy bring to the bottom line, Blackwell says. Despite his battle with Lou Gehrigs disease he continues to lobby for opportunities to strengthen and expand competitive growth. Tireless and determined, he sets a new high bar as a Champion of Competition.
The other Champion honoree for 2004 is Martin. Martin has served on the Federal Communications Commission since mid-2001. His five-year term expires in June 2006. Martin joined the commission from the White House, where he served as a Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and was on the staff of the National Economic Council. In addition to duties as a commissioner, Martin also serves as the chair of both the Federal-State Joint Board on Separations and the Federal-State Joint Conference on Advanced Telecommunications Services and is a member of the Federal-State Joint board on Universal Service.
Prior to working for the Bush Administration, Martin served as a principal technology and telecommunications advisor on the Bush-Cheney transition team. He assumed the role after serving as the deputy general counsel to the Bush campaign in Austin, Texas from July 1999 through December 2000.
Martin received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with Honors and Distinction from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also holds a Masters in Public Policy from Duke University and a J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School. Martin is a member of the Florida Bar, District of Columbia Bar, and the Federal Communications Bar Association.
H. Russell Frisby Jr., CEO of the CompTel/Alliance, praises Martins for standing strong during last years FCC Triennial Review process.
Commissioner Martin embodied the true spirit of a Champion of Competition by displaying tremendous courage, Frisby says. Despite enormous political pressure, he stood by his personal conviction that ensuring ongoing competition was a necessary component to any successful deregulatory policy. For that, we honor Commissioner Martin.
The Alliance selects recipients based on how significantly their leadership and actions have helped to build or redefine the competitive telecommunications industry.
Frisby notes 2004 marks the 20th anniversary of AT&Ts divestiture, which he says started the grand adventure of opening the telecommunications market to competition. He says the Champions of Competition all have played significant roles in fostering competition and creating the foundation for our nations economic growth — whether as lawmakers, policymakers, entrepreneurs or individuals working behind the scenes for the principles in which they believe.
Last year, Rep. Charles Chip Pickering Jr. (R-Miss.) and H. Brian Thompson, chairman of Comsat International were honored as the 2003 Champions of Competition. The award is considered a permanent tribute to industry leaders, lawmakers, technologists and others. The CompTel/ASCENT Alliance Board of Directors chooses the winners. Winners may be selected posthumously.