Shareholders Put Pressure on AT&T, Sprint and Verizon

At the end of 2010, the Federal Communications Commission passed a set of “Open Internet” rules. The agency claimed these rules made Net Neutrality — the notion that we should be able to connect to any website or application without carrier interference — the law of the land.

Not quite.

The FCC’s rules contain a series of significant loopholes. Most importantly, they fail to protect wireless Internet users from carriers like AT&T and Verizon that seek to block our freedom to connect at will.

The fight to rein in these companies has taken an unexpected and hopeful turn. Free Press has joined forces with advocacy group Open MIC to urge shareholders of AT&T, Sprint and Verizon to support wireless Net Neutrality.

There's already been one major success: Beastie Boy Mike D and other investors forced the companies to include discussions of Net Neutrality during their upcoming shareholder meetings. With more support, we can get other shareholders to stand up for Net Neutrality — and change these companies from within.


AT&T, Sprint and Verizon shareholders are pressuring top executives (like AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, pictured here) to commit to wireless Net Neutrality.

Today Nielsen reported that about half of all U.S. mobile phone users own smartphones. This explosion in smartphone use is heralding a time — soon upon us — in which mobile devices are our primary gateways to the Internet.

Meanwhile, our right to connect with those devices is under threat from carriers that claim they have the right to block or slow down our Internet access — and who’ve spent millions lobbying Washington to allow them to do just that.

Under the FCC’s Open Internet rules, wireless carriers are free to speed up connections to websites and apps that pay for faster service, while slowing down others. For example, these companies can make deals that allow one website (like Amazon) to load faster than another (like eBay). And they’re already scheming to make these sorts of moves.

This behavior hurts everyone who uses the Internet, from the innovators who build apps and websites to disadvantaged communities. According to recent surveys, lower-income communities and people of color rely on wireless devices — and the wireless Internet — more than other groups. And people getting online via wireless devices shouldn’t be forced to contend with a restricted Internet.

In the next several weeks, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon shareholders will be voting on whether to commit their companies to following wireless Net Neutrality principles. You can go here to show your support for this bold campaign.

Photo credit: Robert Scoble via Flickr

If you care about the fight for true Net Neutrality, please consider a donation to the Free Press Action Fund. Thank you.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good