A coalition of investors, which had requested that Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) publish regular reports on government and law enforcement requests for confidential customer data, today commended the company for publishing its first report and made recommendations for improving future reports.
Investors to AT&T: Let Shareholders Vote on Open, Free Internet Access for All
NEW YORK - October 26, 2011 - Shareholders of AT&T Inc. have filed a proposal calling for the company “to publicly commit to operate its wireless broadband network consistent with network neutrality principles” that would maintain open access to the Internet on wireless networks.
The filing comes only weeks before implementation of new Federal Communications Commission rules on network neutrality that provide a broad exemption for wireless broadband networks – the fastest growing segment of the Internet.
AT&T has sought in the past to block shareholders from voting on network neutrality issues. A similar shareholder proposal on wireless networks was excluded from AT&T’s 2011 proxy ballot following a Securities and Exchange Commission staff ruling that net neutrality was not a “significant public policy issue.”
The latest AT&T proposal has been filed by institutional investors including the Nathan Cummings Foundation as well as individual investors including Mike D of the Beastie Boys. Unless the proposal is blocked again, it’s expected to be voted on at the company’s annual meeting in April 2012.
“Net neutrality is clearly a material issue of import for AT&T and for the whole country, which is why it’s critical that shareholders be heard,” said Farnum Brown, Chief Investment Strategist for Trillium Asset Management, LLC, an independent investment firm with more than $900 million under management, which represents some of the filers.
According to Laura Campos, director of shareholder activities at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, “This issue has important implications for both social and economic justice and long-term shareholder value. As a shareholder, the Foundation is concerned that over the longer-term, a failure to operate its wireless broadband network in accordance with the principles of network neutrality could negatively impact AT&T’s market share and damage its reputation with consumers.”
The AT&T shareholder proposal cites research by the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University which concluded that an open Internet accounts for billions of dollars of economic value for Americans. “This economic and social value is an important factor in the growth of our economy and widely diversified investment portfolios,” the proposal states.
The proposal also notes that open Internet policies on wireless networks have particular importance for minority and economically disadvantaged communities. People of color access the Internet via cell phones at a much greater rate than their white counterparts, according to a report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. “The digital freedoms at stake are a 21st century civil rights issue,” says Colorofchange.org, an organization representing African-Americans, which is cited by the shareholders.
The shareholder proposal calls on AT&T to proactively ensure that its wireless networks remain open and provide equal access and non-discriminatory treatment for all content.
“Maintaining the existing system of net neutrality for our mobile networks is a win-win – its good for economic growth and good for the principles of free expression that underpin our democracy – the greatest platform the world has known for sustainable economic growth,” said Jonas Kron, Deputy Director for Shareholder Advocacy at Trillium.
The shareholder initiative at AT&T was organized by Open MIC - the Open Media and Information Companies Initiative – a nonprofit organization that seeks to inform corporations’ responsible media management practices. “Net neutrality is necessary to insure competition, entrepreneurship, innovation, and free expression in the digital economy,” said Michael Connor, Open MIC’s Executive Director. “That’s why it is so important that the investor voice be heard.”
For more informatio, call Michael Connor, Executive Director, Open MIC, 212-537-9401
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The Open Media and Information Companies Initiative - Open MIC - is a nonprofit organization working to promote a vibrant, diverse media ecosystem through market-based solutions. Founded in late 2006, Open MIC is a project of the Tides Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
The Open MIC Blog
In a victory for shareholders concerned about the role of telecommunications companies in government surveillance programs, Verizon Communications announced that it will begin to publish regular reports on the number of government requests it receives for customer data.
The move came nearly a month after institutional investors filed proposals with Verizon and AT&T demanding that the companies issue semiannual reports on government information requests.
Citing intense global concern over the impact of disclosures regarding surveillance programs directed by the U.S. government agencies, investors in AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) have filed shareholder proposals calling on the companies to publish semi-annual reports detailing how often they have shared information with U.S. or foreign governments and what type of customer information has been shared.
The prime sponsor of the AT&T proposal is the $160.7 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund, which manages assets on behalf of more than one million State employees and retirees. Trillium Asset Management LLC, a Boston-based investment management firm, is the lead proponent of the Verizon. Other investment firms and organizations – including the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California – co-filed at one or both of the companies.