Shareholder Proposals (Item 9 on Proxy Card)
Margot Cheel, c/o Trillium Asset Management Corporation, 711 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02111, owner of 750 shares of the Company’s common stock, The Nathans Cummings Foundation, 475 Tenth Avenue, 14th Floor, New York, New York 10018, owner of 4,895 shares of the Company’s common stock, Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica, 801 S. 8th Street, Atchison, Kansas 66002, owner of 357 shares of the Company’s common stock, and St. Scholastica Monastery, 1301 South Albert Pike, Fort Smith, Arkansas 72913, owner of 100 shares of the Company’s common stock, as co-sponsors, propose the following:
Network Neutrality on Wireless Networks
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.”
For all these reasons, we believe network neutrality on wireless networks is needed to protect open access to the Internet by millions of Americans.
Resolved, shareholders request the company publicly commit (while not conceding or forfeiting any issue in litigation related to network neutrality) to operate voluntarily 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.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS’ POSITION
The Board of Directors strongly believes that by requiring the Company to “not privilege, degrade or prioritize any packet transmitted over its wireless infrastructure based on its source, ownership or destination” this proposal will harm Verizon’s ability to provide robust and secure wireless broadband service to its customers. The delivery of high-quality and safe wireless Internet access services is a highly complex, technical undertaking. The proponents appear to have no concept of the negative technical and operational ramifications of requiring purely “neutral” routing of Internet traffic. This proposal would substantially interfere with the technical operation of Verizon’s wireless broadband network and have a wide-ranging and significant impact on Verizon’s business and operations. Among other things, the proposal would prevent Verizon from engaging in reasonable network management practices designed to address potential congestion, security and other wireless network problems and make the network more efficient and more widely available to all customers. The proposal would also prevent Verizon from giving priority to police, fire and military communications over its wireless broadband network in the event of natural disasters or terrorist attacks.
Importantly, this very proposal was rejected by the FCC in its recently adopted rules addressing net neutrality issues. The FCC recognized that managing a broadband network in “non-neutral” ways was critical to ensuring network integrity, providing security capabilities and reducing congestion. It further concluded that wireless networks in particular present unique operational issues and expressly permitted providers to develop differentiated services that this proposal would prevent. The proposal disregards the FCC’s conclusions about the importance of network management and would impede Verizon’s ability to manage its networks and offer services to meet the needs of its customers.
Finally, Verizon is committed to maintaining an open and vibrant Internet. Verizon already complies with the FCC’s net neutrality rules and voluntarily operates its wireless broadband networks in accordance with additional openness principles published on its website. The Board believes that the rigid operational requirements of this proposal will not further the “openness” of the Internet; to the contrary, it would expose Verizon’s wireless broadband customers to reduced service quality and security.
For these reasons, the Board strongly opposes the proposal.
The Board of Directors recommends that you vote AGAINST this proposal.