George Vinall, a former executive vice president of business development for Talk America, died over the weekend from the neuromuscular disease ALS — or Lou Gehrig’s disease, with which he was diagnosed seven years ago. Despite complications from the illness, Vinall refused to retire or slow down. He continued to advocate for competitive telecom causes and was recognized in February of 2004 as one of COMPTEL’s Champions of Competition.
Vinall had been in telecom for nearly 30 years, and the last few proved 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 residential CLECs in the United States.
Vinall boasted a long list of professional achievements. But perhaps his most impressive accomplishment was that after being diagnosed with ALS, he continued his work. ALS is characterized by progressive muscle weakness that results in paralysis and death. Vinall said that in spite of his diagnosis, the crisis to the CLEC industry caused by the Triennial Review NPRM was too critical to ignore, so he formed the Competitive Working Group. In February 2004, he said the group — “greatly aided” by what was then CompTel/ASCENT — helped align the competitive industry for the compromises contained in the eventual order.
Vinall said of himself in early 2004: “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.”