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Phone Plus Prepaid: New IPCA Chairman Seeks Greater Visibility for Trade Group

Posted: 3/2003

New IPCA Chairman Seeks Greater
Visibility for Trade Group

Richard
Harding, COO of 9278 Communications Inc., was elected 2003-2005 chairman of the
International Prepaid Communications Association (IPCA), the trade group for the
prepaid telecom industry.

Other officers elected include L.
Scott Cohen of AT&T Corp. as vice-chairman, Brad Schaffer of Global Network
Technology Inc. as secretary treasurer and Hope Halpern of Telstar International
Inc. as chairman-elect.

"I’m looking forward to working
with the other officers and leaders of the IPCA in getting our committees to do
more," says Harding, who served on the group’s executive committee in 2002.
"Not only will that mean looking for volunteers to engage these committees
but to the whole industry for valuable input as to how we can make the IPCA
better and stronger."

The IPCA was founded in 1995 to
represent the prepaid telecom industry before government agencies and the media.
It also aids consumers having problems with prepaid telecom services. Its major
victory in the past year was an FCC decision that prohibited dial-around
compensation charges on uncompleted calls placed with phone cards — a ruling
the group claims saved the industry an estimated $90 million.

PHONE+ talked with Harding as he
starts his two-year term, about his goals for IPCA in 2003. The following is an
edited excerpt from that conversation.

Now that you are chairman, what
do you see as top goals for the group this year?

Obviously, our primary directive is
to stay on top of the regulatory issues that affect all of us. [That means]
working closely with the commission to make sure that they don’t enact or pass
things that are detrimental to the various members of the association. You know
dial-around compensation is a big issue for us. I mean card vendors are hit with
it, and it has an impact on revenue, it has an impact on cost, it has an impact
on margin. It’s a very strong issue for us. So, obviously [we will be] paying
attention to that as well as the issues that affect us all.

Our secondary objective is,
obviously, to make our association stronger. We want to have more members. We
want to grow more significantly and become stronger, make a stronger impact on
the community as a whole.

Do you have any particular
campaigns or initiatives for membership recruitment at this point?

It’s an ongoing campaign. It
certainly will be more vigorous in the coming 90 days than it has in the past.
We are going to vigorously go out and make some attempts to make people aware.

Anything you can share?

We will be doing a lot of
handshaking and face-to-face meetings. We are going to send out letters to
people who currently are not members. We also are going to send out letters to
people who are members and asking them to encourage people who are not part of
the association to take part in it.

The kinds of members that you are
looking for — are they mainly prepaid card distributors or are you looking for
diversification among your membership?

Much broader. We are looking for
anyone that impacts or has use or knowledge of our business. Wholesale vendors
have to provide services and rates to card members in order for them to be
effective. We would be looking for wholesale members to participate. We would be
looking for distributors of any sort to participate. We would be looking for
anyone that is peripherally in our industry whether that [might] be someone who
drives trucks to distribute cards around the country or warehousing or whatever
it may be. We would be looking for anyone that has an impact on this business.
Certainly the issues that come up in Congress and the telecom commission have an
impact on our industry as a whole and certainly the lives of many people.

One thing that feeds into member
recruitment is member services. Can you point to anything that you have already
or things that you will be implementing this year that maybe would entice more
people to join?

We want to become more visible. I
think IPCA in the past has been an invisible association. We want to become a
lot more visible and make people a lot more aware of what we are doing behind
the scenes to make it an easier road for them to transition.

What are you doing in particular
to execute on that goal?

We are sending out letters. We are
going to send out letters every 45 days or so to inform people what we are doing
and the things that we are about to do.

Any other outreach efforts like
PR or advertising?

We are not going to do any
advertising, but we are going to do a lot more PR. [IPCA Executive Director]
Howard Segermark, the gentleman who runs the association, is going to be very
active in contacting local news agencies to let them know that there are not
only human interest stories in what we do, there is a lot of newsworthy
information. And not only that, from the perspective that the card industry
today is a surviving entity of telecom. I mean, so many carriers have gone the
way of the buffalo. Card services have not gone that way. Certainly, [companies]
have gone out of business, but usually from mismanagement not because the
business wasn’t there for them.

If we were to talk to you Dec.
31, what would you say that would point to your successes?

If we grew membership significantly
and we transitioned the issues of the day, if dial-around was repealed [and] if
the tax issues were lessened.

 

Links
9278 Communications www.9278.com

AT&T Corp. www.att.com

Global Network Technology Inc. www.4-globalnet.com

International Prepaid Communications
Association www.i-pca.org

Telstar International Inc. www.telstar-usa.com

 


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