updated 11:15 pm EST, Tue February 14, 2012
SEC allows issue to come to shareholder vote
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has reportedly ordered AT&T, Verizon and Sprint to allow net neutrality proposals to be included in annual shareholder votes. The move is said to be partially inspired by pressure from shareholder groups such as Trillium Asset Management, which represents high-profile AT&T investors including Mike D of the Beastie Boys and his wife Tamra Davis, director of "Half Baked" and "Billy Madison."
"In view of 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, we do not believe that AT&T may omit the proposal from its proxy materials," the SEC wrote in a recent letter.
The shareholders are pushing AT&T to embrace new internal guidelines to ensure that its wireless broadband management is "consistent with network neutrality principles" and will not discriminate based on the "source, ownership or destination" of data.
AT&T is currently resisting the proposal, arguing that such guidelines would "interfere" with its network management and "impair its ability to provide wireless broadband service," according to a letter authored by attorney David B. Harms and quoted by Businessweek. Until the recent SEC order, the company had been permitted to exclude the proposals from shareholder votes.