Shareholder Proposal on Network Neutrality Gains Momentum in Vote at Verizon
Submitted by michael on Wed, 2012-05-09 15:52
Shareholder Proposal on Network Neutrality Gains Momentum in Vote at Verizon ______________________________________
Results Surpass Those at AT&T; Third vote upcoming at Sprint on May 15
A shareholder proposal calling upon Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, NASDAQ – VZ) to publicly commit to network neutrality principles on its wireless networks gained significant momentum at the company’s annual meeting as shareholders supported the proposal by an even larger margin than their counterparts at AT&T did in a similar recent vote.
The proposal at Verizon, which was offered and considered for the first time this year, attracted 7.9% of the votes cast by the company’s shareholders at the annual meeting in Huntsville, Alabama on May 3.A similar measure at AT&T Inc.’s annual meeting on April 27 attracted 5.9% of the shares voted.The vote results are contained in official filings by the companies with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
By winning more than 3 percent of the vote of shareholders at both AT&T and Verizon, the proposals reached an important qualifying threshold set by the SEC for inclusion in next year’s proxy voting at both companies.
Based on Verizon’s recent share price, the results mean that investors holding stock worth more than $5.2 billion voted in favor of the resolution.
A similar proposals regarding wireless network neutrality is scheduled for a vote at Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE – S) on Tuesday, May 15.
Network neutrality is a core principle that has guided the Internet since its inception. This principle enables an open Internet by making sure that companies that provide Internet access treat all content equally—regardless of source, destination or ownership. This prevents a handful of large companies from paying wireless providers premium rates in exchange for faster speeds on their sites than others receive. Without it, consumers risk experiencing a dramatically different Internet, where large corporate sites able to pay premium costs load and operate at fast speeds while smaller newer sites struggle to function and compete with slower speeds. Numerous studies also demonstrate that network neutrality is important to the prosperity of Internet Service Providers and economic growth.
The shareholder proposals at AT&T, Verizon and Sprint were allowed on the proxy ballots following an SEC staff ruling earlier this year which denied “no-action” requests by the companies.The companies had sought to block shareholders from voting on the proposals by arguing, among other things, that network neutrality was not a “significant public policy issue.” The SEC staff rejected that argument in view of what it called “the sustained public debate over the last several years concerning net neutrality and the Internet and the increasing recognition that the issue raises significant policy considerations.”
The proposals ask each company to publicly commit to operate its wireless broadband network “consistent with network neutrality principles – i.e., operate a neutral network with neutral routing along the company’s wireless infrastructure such that the company does not privilege, degrade or prioritize any packet transmitted over its wireless infrastructure based on its source, ownership or destination.”
For more information:
Michael Connor, Executive Director, Open MIC, 646-493-9704,
Jonas Kron, Vice President, Trillium Asset Management, (503) 592-0864,
Shareholders of telecom giants AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc are seeking more details related to their sharing of customer information with governments, showing investors starting to push back over the role of communications companies in spying operations.
The investors are pushing for more openness after reports this year that major Internet companies and U.S. carriers have cooperated with government agencies by sharing some customer data. In June, the Guardian newspaper reported on a secret court order directing New York-based Verizon to collect call data.
Growing up in Iran I know too well the impact of unchecked government surveillance. Even as a small child, I had to worry about what I said and asked over the phone because the government could be listening and might use what I said against my family. So when I found out that AT&T and Verizon have been handing over information about millions of customers’ calls to the National Security Agency (NSA) I was outraged.
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.
Citing the potential of “unprecedented and dangerous threats to the privacy of hundreds of millions of people” from government surveillance programs, a group of leading sustainable investment firms has called upon publicly-held U.S. companies to demonstrate leadership by adopting “a pro-active, principled approach to protecting the privacy and rights of their users.”
There is no "safe haven" for investors when it comes to privacy and data security, as clear risks exist for companies of all shapes and sizes. The onus is on investors to question how management is dealing with these issues. If companies aren't adequately addressing privacy and data security risks – and there's abundant evidence that's the case – shareholders need to highlight the gravity of the issue. For the 21st century digital economy to thrive, we all need assurance our personal secrets are, indeed, safe.