Sprint Nextel Corporation
2012 Shareholder Proposal
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 has pointed out, an open Internet plays a pivotal role in solving critical national problems 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.
In 2010, the Federal Communications Commission approved network neutrality rules in order to preserve the free and open nature of the Internet. However, wireless networks (the fastest growing segment of the internet) are exempt from certain portions of the rules.
Open Internet policies on wireless networks 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. According to Pew, “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.” Colorofchange.org, an organization representing African-Americans, has declared that, “The digital freedoms at stake are a 21st century civil rights issue.”
In addition to having beneficial social implications, we believe that operating its wireless networks in accordance with network neutrality principles can be advantageous for our company. For instance, a commitment to an open, neutral wireless network will encourage application developers to bring new products to the Sprint platform, attracting new customers and creating new opportunities to share revenue with developers. The greater the number of applications and uses of a wireless device, the more attractive it becomes to consumers. Furthermore, by committing to network neutrality, our company could avoid significant costs associated with monitoring applications and Internet traffic. Similarly, committing to network neutrality could allow our company to avoid the risk of indirect liability and regulation associated with assertions of control over traffic.
Resolved, shareholders request that the company publicly commit to operate its wireless broadband network in accordance 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.
Proposal submitted on behalf of The Nathan Cummings Foundation.
Important Note: The Open Media and Information Companies Initiative is NOT asking for your proxy card and is not providing investment advice. We will not accept AT&T, Verizon or Sprint proxy cards, and any proxy cards received will be returned. If you have any questions regarding investing in AT&T, Verizon or Sprint you should consult with a financial professional.