AT&T – Free and Open Internet (2010)
Outcome: Omitted by SEC
The Internet has become a defining infrastructure of our economy and society; Internet Service Providers like AT&T forge rules that shape, enable and limit Internet use.
Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Chairman Genachowski recently noted that a free and open Internet is an “unprecedented platform for speech, democratic engagement, and a culture that prizes creative new ways of approaching old problems.” A free and open Internet, he said, demands Americans’ attention because the Internet must play a critical role in solving the “great challenges [we face] as a nation right now, including health care, education, energy, and public safety.” He asserted: “We have an obligation to ensure that the Internet is an enduring engine for U.S. economic growth, and a foundation for democracy in the 21st century.”
These issues have attracted considerable public interest since at least 2005 when the FCC first articulated open Internet principles and may present financial risk to the company.
The widespread interest in a free and open Internet (so-called “net neutrality”) is echoed by recent letters from hundreds of organizations including the American Library Association, Writers Guild of America, West, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Consumer Federation of America. As a letter from minority advocates put it, applications of net neutrality principles “to wireline and wireless networks are essential for extending the proven benefits of the Internet to poor people and people of color.”
Hundreds of federal and state legislators have written to the FCC on these issues. Congress is now considering the Internet Freedom Preservation Act and the Internet Freedom Act. The FCC is also considering a proposed rule.
In October 2009, AT&T’s Senior Executive Vice President – External and Legislative Affairs wrote to all U.S. based managers. After rightly noting the importance of the Internet for economic and job growth, he encouraged them and their families and friends to write to the FCC and urge “the FCC not to regulate the Internet.”In contrast, Qwest’s CEO has told Wall Street analysts that Qwest is not concerned with the issue and believes the rules which might be put in place will be adequate.
The Washington Post and OpenSecrets.org report that AT&T is the most active lobbyist on these issues.
AT&T’s Board has a Public Policy Committee authorized “to review the corporate policies and practices in furtherance of AT&T’s corporate social responsibility, including public policy issues affecting AT&T, its shareholders, employees, customers and the communities in which it operates; to determine how Company practices impact public expectations; and to provide guidance and perspective to the Board and management on these issues.”
Shareholders request the Public Policy Committee publish a report, by August 2010 at reasonable cost and excluding confidential information, re-examining our Company’s policy position and discussing how the company could address the challenges presented by the free and open Internet issue in the context of AT&T’s corporate social responsibility, its reputation, and the impact of the company’s policies on customers, communities, and society.