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SEC Decides Telcos Must Give Shareholders a Vote On Net Neutrality 107

Posted by samzenpus
from the time-for-a-vote dept.
suraj.sun writes with a link about a SEC decision that telecommunications companies must give shareholders an annual vote on wireless net-neutrality resolutions. "The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has told AT&T and other telecommunications companies they must include a resolution supporting wireless net-neutrality in annual shareholder votes. In a letter posted on the SEC website, the agency asserted that net neutrality — the idea that Internet service providers must treat traffic equally — has become a significant policy consideration and can no longer be excluded from shareholder ballots. AT&T, Verizon and Sprint Nextel must now grant shareholder requests for votes this year on resolutions that would support net neutrality. In view of the sustained public debate over the last several years concerning net neutrality and the Internet and the increasing recognition that the issue raises significant policy considerations, we do not believe that AT&T may omit the proposal from its proxy materials, the SEC said in the Feb. 10 letter."
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SEC Decides Telcos Must Give Shareholders a Vote On Net Neutrality

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 16, 2012 @02:49AM (#39056741)

    Oh please. You're watch too many indie "documentaries".

    If all the shareholders in public companies were willing to sink the company for short term gains, companies wouldn't stay listed for more than a year. I think you'll find that generally isn't the case.

  • by icebike (68054) * on Thursday February 16, 2012 @03:05AM (#39056813)

    It's a trial balloon. If the shareholders say "yes" then the government can point to shareholder support for their talking points. If the shareholders say "no" then the government can pull out the standard anti-business talking points.

    Either way, it polarizes the issue and gives the politicians another opportunity for a self-serving speech.

    Its pretty clear that the Telco's can word it in such a way that Tim Berners-Lee would vote the wrong way 8 times out of ten. I've seen many such proposals forced onto shareholders ballots which were worded in such a way that the reader was certain only Satan himself would vote for the proposal.

    Besides that, given the hijacking of the term "net neutrality" over the last couple years its not safe to say you support Net Neutrality without a clarifying definition, because some companies have managed to twist the definition to the point that it means exactly the opposite of what you think.

    Even Google [blogspot.com] fell off the bandwagon when they said this in the space of two sentences:

    There is widespread agreement among all parties that outright blocking, impairing, or degrading Internet traffic should not be tolerated. Beyond that, we also believe that broadband carriers should have the flexibility to engage in a whole host of activities, including:

    ...

    Prioritizing all applications of a certain general type, such as streaming video;

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:40AM (#39057217) Journal

    If shareholders were allowed to set the minimum wage a company will pay, they have a financial interest in voting for $0.

    Your faith in the American people is seriously lacking.
    Companies frequently fight off shareholder initiatives that are socially responsible and would slightly lower profits.

    The first organization I recall is The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.
    It is comprised of churchs and religious organizations that use their investments to push socially responsible corporate governance.
    I only know of them because it grew out of an (eventually successful) effort to force American companies to stop doing business with/in apartheid South Africa.

    Of course, these days socially responsible shareholders have to go up against hedgefunds and other Wal Street financial firms that are managing deep pools of money and chasing short term profits instead of social and corporate responsibility.

  • by Coeurderoy (717228) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:52AM (#39057265)

    One definition of madness is doing again and again and again what failed first and hoping that the results will be different "this time"
    One definition of evil is doing something, seeing that it is bad for people, and doing it again and again and again...

    Having a "public authority" asking the shareholder to vote on what would be in effect an element of "self regulation" is either mad or evil, probably both.

    It is worth while to read: ( http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/reviews/2010/12/ars-book-review-the-master-switch-by-tim-wu.ars [arstechnica.com] ) The master switch
    to learn about how again, and again the government supported the creation of private monopolies, and stronger business control on public expression and opinion.

    The only justification for this would be if there would be some way to make the shareholder liable for the crimes of the management.
    If the SEC would seriously think that the FCC might for a nationalisation or a breakup of the operators if they do not garanty network neutrality, then asking the Shareholder about their opinion would be somehow justified.
    By the way this should not be an issue since the operators are supposedly liable for defaulting on their "common carrier" responsibilities, so asking the shareholder is basically: do you want us to comit a crime to make a lot of cash for you ? or would you prefer us to be honest.
    (not that the PR agency would let them ask the question that way of course...)

  • by rtb61 (674572) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @06:22AM (#39057615) Homepage

    Here's a little share holder game. Company A has very socially responsible share holders, the require the company to pay top wages and only charge 10% profits. The income generated by the company defines it share price. Now along come a bunch of dicks led by Ritt Momney and the company he runs Cain Bapital. Now they see how well the company is run and how great it's reputation is and, they know they can really capitalise on this.

    So they offer say 50% more per share than the company is worth and naturally enough buy the company. They now shift the debt, the money the borrowed to buy the company on to the company, fire all the workers and only rehire say 75% of the ones who will accept a 75% pay and demand they increase their productivity by 25%, otherwise the company will go broke trying to repay the debt Ritt Momney and Cain Bapital dumped on the company.

    They also decide to screw the customers, basically running down service, support and quality of product to practically nothing. They then on sell the company to gullible investors highlighting the low labour costs and high profit margins (based on about to disappear customers due to appalling service, support and quality) and obfuscating the debt by focusing on return on capital (value of all the assets of the company less debt, you might think that is crazy but that is the way finances work). They sell the company at a huge profit and run away before it all blows up due to, appalling service, support and quality, disappearing customers as the companies reputation goes up in flames, an unhappy experienced labour force all looking to get another job and quit, and massive debt with reduced sales coming home to roost.

    Basically if it ain't legislated psychopath executives will screw it up every single time (consider the about tactic would be executed with full and complete foreknowledge of the outcome, company bankrupt, all the workers fired and the gullible investors loose pretty much everything, hell, Ritt and Bain will even make financial bets that the company will go belly up, they did after all set it up that way).

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