SEC Tells Telecoms to Include Net Neutrality in Shareholder Voting

The Securities and Exchange Commission has informed AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint that they must allow shareholder requests for votes on resolutions supporting net neutrality, the concept of treating all Internet traffic equally. According to Bloomberg, the SEC has said that the issue has become a “significant policy consideration.”

The change in the SEC’s position is attributed to the efforts of Trillium Asset Management, which led the push on behalf of itself and two other large shareholders. Farnum Brown, an investment strategist at Trillium, told Bloomberg: “It allows shareholders to come to the table for the first time on an issue that we think is really of preeminent importance.”

The news has been reported as “AT&T Must Let Beastie Boy Vote” in some places on the Internet — including Businessweek, which published the Bloomberg story — because Trillium represents three AT&T investors: Michael Diamond, a.k.a. Mike D of the Beastie Boys; Tamra Davis, a film director who is Diamond’s wife; and John P. Silvia, whose management firm represents rock bands including Foo Fighters.

AT&T and Verizon both declined to comment to Bloomberg, but both have been against net neutrality proposals in the past. Sprint has held a similar view, and a spokesman for the company told Bloomberg that it is “reviewing the information received from the SEC and potential next steps.”

Democratic Senator Al Franken, who has been a major proponent of net neutrality, issued a statement that said: “Net neutrality is the free speech issue of our time and today’s decision by the SEC was a big win in the fight to maintain a free and open Internet.”