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Fighting for the right to fax.

Acting on petitions filed by ASAE and other organizations, the Federal Communications Commission delayed implementing new fax regulations requiring associations and others to obtain signed, written consent before transmitting commercial faxes. The stay, valid until January 1, 2005, gives organizations more time to comply with the new rules. The FCC granted the stay after receiving hundreds of comments and requests for interpretation of the rules published in the July 25 Federal Register. ASAE, backed by more than 1,500 associations, argued that the fax regulations as written would significantly impede the marketing strategies and basic communication between associations and their members.

"We are appreciative and pleased with the prompt and aggressive action of ASAE in providing leadership to the successful coalition that secured the stay," says Richard D. Upton, president, American Lighting Association, Dallas, a coalition member. "We encourage ASAE and others to stay focused on the issue and continue to work diligently to ensure that we gain permanent relief. ALA is committed to be a strong partner to ASAE's effort and will assist in any way that it can."

With the stay granted, ASAE has turned its attention to a legislative resolution to the FCC fax debacle. Applauding the efforts of ASAE members in obtaining the stay, Jim Clarke, ASAE's senior vice president of public policy and strategic relations, says, "A tremendous thanks goes out to the coalition of association executives that is deeply concerned and united on this issue. We now have some breathing room. I can only urge vigilance as we work with Congress toward changing the law."

From waiting to see how it all shook out to scrambling to collect permissions, associations took various tactics in the face of the fax rules. The Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute, Arlington, Virginia, for example, took a wait-and-see approach. Craig Silverio, CAE, vice president of finance, cites conflicting interpretations of the new regulations, conflicting effective dates, and the association's low use of fax-based communication as reasons for PMMI's conservative response. "We weren't necessarily going to ignore the regulations or wait until the due date passed [to act]," he says. But "our counsel advised us that contrary to what most organizations thought, August 25 was not the trigger date [because] there were components of the regulations that had to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget, and that was unlikely to happen until October 1.

"We were also well aware of ASAE's and ours and numerous other associations' efforts to solicit either a stay or reversal. We felt that the groundswell of energy would be sufficient to get a stay or reversal prior to October 1."

On the other end of the spectrum sits the Entomological Society of America, Lanham, Maryland. "When this first came to light, we understood that this was going to be a problem, both currently with fax machines and in the future with e-mail. So our reaction was more about looking ahead and anticipating where we thought this was going to take us," says Chris Stelzig, ESA's membership and marketing manager. "We decided to tackle everything at one time--fax permission, phone permission, and e-mail permission for ESA and all of our affiliates."

Though some of their work was for naught, Stelzig does not feel that it was a waste. "A good thing that came out of it would be publication of our communication policy. [Also] we've long since meant to find out how members want to be contacted; this forced the issue. And it showed our members that we were being very proactive on an issue," he says. And for Paula G. Lettice, ESA's executive director, it was also an opportunity for associations to band together as a community. A member of the coalition fighting the fax rules, Lettice was also "delighted to provide so many other associations with advice and access to the materials ESA developed."

For more information on this or other public policy issues, call 202-626-2703.
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Title Annotation:Headlines
Publication:Association Management
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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