Successful Advocacy Begins Locally

Comptel was founded more than 26 years ago by entrepreneurs hoping to bring to consumers an alternative to the monopolistic long-distance service of the entrenched Ma Bell, AT&T. Over the years, its members have been a driving force behind the explosion of new technologies and services, including the Internet, on which consumers and businesses depend to stay ahead of the curve in the global marketplace.

COMPTEL is the leading voice of this dynamic community in Washington, D.C., working tirelessly to promote competition and innovation before Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and the courts. Certainly, we have seen some hard times on the policy front with regulators making decisions that facilitate the Bell companies desires to remonopolize the communications industry. But we also have won many hard-fought battles and have demonstrated to several lawmakers the integral role competitive communications service providers play in the broadband and IP services revolution.

Our successes would never have been possible without the unwavering support and participation of our members. The fight to preserve competition and consumer choice is not just in Washington. Its before every state commission, every city council and in every single living room in this country.

I talk to COMPTEL members every day and Im in awe constantly of what these companies are doing to make affordable access to advanced communications a reality for all Americans. While the incumbent carriers continue to ignore large segments of the nation, feigning an inability to overcome financial and geographic challenges, competitors are making it happen and bringing rural Americans up to the same technological levels as their urban counterparts.

While our members have made traditional voice and data services more accessible and affordable, they continue to build on their achievements and roll out new and exciting broadband, IP and wireless services and technologies.

Its essential that COMPTEL members share their stories with local politicians and community leaders so they can see firsthand what these companies are doing to enrich the lives of their constituents. In addition, building strong relationships with local media plays a huge part in bringing our message into peoples homes.

It may not always seem like we have a strong voice. We certainly cant compete with the multimillion-dollar ad campaigns that the Bell companies can afford. But when we put our resources together, we can reach out to the community, speak the truth, and let consumers join in our fight to preserve competition and choice. Successful advocacy in Washington starts at the local level. The same entrepreneurial spirit and energy that built the competitive carrier marketplace must also be applied in the policy arena.

For some of you, launching an effective advocacy campaign seems like a daunting task, which is why COMPTEL and its staff are committed to creating programs and providing resources that enable members to directly participate in our efforts in Washington, as well as learn about the steps you can take at the local level to influence the debate.

COMPTEL often hosts several of our member companies top-level executives in Washington as we visit with members of Congress and the FCC. These events not only provide members with exclusive meetings with key players inside the beltway, but they also give a face to COMPTEL and enable lawmakers to see real-world examples of how pro-competitive and pro-consumer policies impact the economy.

The COMPTEL PLUS Convention + EXPO, held every spring and fall, provide excellent opportunities to learn about the latest regulatory and legislative debates at the forefront in Washington. More importantly, the shows provide COMPTEL and its staff with opportunities to meet face-to-face with industry professionals and hear whats most important to you and your business.

In the near future, you can expect to see many new advocacy outlets from us, including interactive Web sites that enable you to reach directly consumers and representatives, and that provide you with the information you need to communicate our message in your hometown effectively. We thank all of our members for their continued support of our grassroots efforts and we look forward to continuing to champion the competitive community.

Jerry James is president and CEO of COMPTEL, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing competitive facilities-based telecommunications service providers, emerging VoIP providers, integrated communications companies and their supplier partners. COMPTELs annual trade show, the COMPTEL PLUS Convention + EXPO, will be Oct. 7-10 at The Gaylord Texan in Dallas. For more information, visit


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