Back in February we noted
that the SEC announced that wireless carriers had to include a resolution supporting wireless net-neutrality in annual shareholder votes. This was something driven by several shareholders -- most notably AT&T investor Mike D of the Beastie Boys. As shareholders of AT&T, Sprint and Verizon are now poised to vote for carriers to uphold neutrality for the very first time -- groups are rallying to explain why supporting a neutral Internet is important from the investor perspective.
Investment firm Trillium Asset Management is circulating a statement
arguing that they should vote yes on these rules for the good of investors and consumers alike.
Trillium's letter cites studies from the McKinsey, New York University, University of Florida and University of Notre Dame that suggest "enormous financial benefits" created by ensuring that networks remain open and neutral. The letter also expresses concern that AT&T, Verizon and Sprint will "tamper with this engine of economic growth" by creating "fast lanes" on their wireless networks for those willing and able to pay a premium.
The problem of course is that most investors will vote against these measures, as they want
the company they're investing in doing things that improve quarterly returns, such as giving their own content priority or imposing punitive new pricing systems. Most investors lust rather mindlessly after short-term gains, and can't or won't see the benefits of trying to keep the Internet as a whole open and competitive. Many investors don't even want to re-invest in the network, even if the company they're investing in is in the broadband business
and neglecting infrastructure upgrades means a lower quality company.
Neutrality infractions may not be good for innovation and many businesses, but they're great
for a carrier's bottom line.
At the same time, AT&T's often greedy and hare-brained monetization schemes (like trying to erect new troll tolls for app makers
) only work to destroy a company's brand while executives wage war against the natural evolution of technology, both things that will do these companies harm long term. Granted many investors don't care about a company's long-term health, as they'll flee long before the piper has to be paid.