Commentary

Nonprofit Open Media Group Calls For AT&T Shareholders To Endorse Neutrality

Members of the nonprofit Open Media and Information Companies Initiative are proposing that AT&T shareholders vote to endorse neutrality principles at the company's annual meeting next April.

Open MIC says the proposal was filed by AT&T shareholders, including institutional investors like the Nathan Cummings Foundation and individuals like the Beastie Boys' “Mike D.” The proposal calls for AT&T to 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.”

Those requirements are broader than the open Internet rules passed late last year by the Federal Communications Commission. Those regulations prohibit wireless providers from blocking or degrading content and competing apps, but appear to allow wireless companies to enter into paid prioritization deals. The rules impose stricter conditions on wireline companies, which also are banned from engaging in unreasonable discrimination, such as paid prioritization deals.

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The FCC's neutrality regulations are slated to go into effect on Nov. 20, unless a court blocks them. Verizon is challenging the rules in court. The telecom argues that the FCC has no authority to regulate the Internet. But AT&T publicly says it supports the regulations.

Neutrality advocates also are challenging the regulations in court, though for different grounds than Verizon. Free Press and other groups argue that the FCC shouldn't have adopted different standards for wireless and wireline providers. The FCC got some support in that matter today from the CTIA, a trade association for wireless companies. The organization filed papers to intervene in the case filed by Free Press and the other groups. “CTIA wishes to defend the FCC against that challenge and any related arguments that the FCC erred in imposing too few regulatory burdens,” the group says in its filing.

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