The open (non-discriminatory) architecture of the Internet is critical to the prosperity of our economy and society. Non-discrimination principles are commonly referred to as “network neutrality” and seek to ensure equal access and non-discriminatory treatment for all content.
As President Obama and Federal Communication Commission Chairman Genachowski have pointed out, an open Internet plays a pivotal role in solving critical national problems such as healthcare, education, energy, and public safety and is necessary “to preserve the freedom and openness that have allowed the Internet to become a transformative and powerful platform for speech and expression.”
Network neutrality rules are also needed to “facilitate the growth of the Internet and give private companies the correct incentives to continue investing in this significantly valuable good,” according to a January 2010 report by the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University. This report and others find that an open Internet accounts for billions of dollars of value for the economy.
We believe this economic and social value is an important factor in the growth of our economy and widely diversified investment portfolios.
Open Internet policies on wireless networks (the fastest growing segment of the Internet) 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. In 2010, the report found, 33% of whites accessed the Internet on cell phones compared to 51% of Latinos and 46% of African-Americans; 30% of whites sent or received e-mail on cell phones compared to 47% of Latinos and 41% of African-Americans.
In 2011 Pew reported “Smartphone owners under the age of 30, non-white smartphone users, and smartphone owners with relatively low income and education levels are particularly likely to say that they mostly go online using their phones.” It found that almost a third of the “mostly cell” users lack any traditional broadband Internet access. The author of the report concluded, “For businesses, government agencies and nonprofits who want to engage with certain communities, they will find them in front of a four-inch screen, not in front of a big computer in their den.”
According to Colorofchange.org, an organization representing African-Americans, “The digital freedoms at stake are a 21st century civil rights issue.”
Whether or not the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile is completed, network neutrality principles on wireless networks are needed to protect open access to the Internet by millions of Americans.
Shareholders request the company 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.