Readers of this blog are probably familiar with the concept of “net neutrality” and why it matters to musicians. But let us remind you anyway.
All of the amazing internet tools that musicians and music entrepreneurs use every day are a result of the open internet, which gives anyone a license to innovate. Without basic protections to preserve this dynamic, the internet we know and love could become extinct. We’ve seen that movie before: just look at commercial broadcast radio to see what happens when just a few powerful companies control access to audiences and what content is even available.
In 2010, Federal Communications Commission issued its Open Internet Order, which went some way towards preserving an open and accessible internet. But the FCC’s policy left the mobile space completely unprotected. With music and other forms of entertainment rapidly moving to the wireless space, it is even more important to ensure that there isn’t any discrimination over the flow of lawful content online.
We should add that both the United States House of Representatives and Senate previously attempted to strip the FCC’s authority to do pretty much anything regarding the internet. That didn’t sit well with many musicians, including bands like The Decemberists and My Morning Jacket, who sent letters to the Hill telling policymakers to just chill, already.
The FCC’s rules are now being challenged in the courts, where a positive outcome for creators and innovators is anything but certain. But a small army of shareholders aren’t waiting around for a favorable ruling. Instead, they’ve decided to push for open internet provisions as responsible owners of the very companies that have fought against net neutrality at every turn. To quote De La Soul, stakes is high. If the telecos prevail, your internet experience may become closer to cable TV than a vibrant, global platform for free expression and commerce.
Previously, we reported about the involvement of Mike D of the Beastie Boys, his filmmaker wife, Tamra Davis, as well as John Silva of Silva Artist Management — all AT&T shareholders. We were also pleased to highlight the fact that Farnum Brown — a member of Future of Music Coalition’s Board of Directors — is directly involved via his socially responsible investment firm, Trillium Asset Management. believe it or not, these internet champions have been trying to get the wireless telecoms to vote on a proposal since 2009.
They may just get there yet.
A few weeks ago, it was announced that the Securities and Exchange Commission () broke from its previous line of decisions and announced that telecommunications companies could no longer exclude proposals to preserve the open internet. (That’s a huge deal in and of itself.)
The wireless companies are starting to feel the heat, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be easy to budge. As Politco reports (sorry, it’s behind a paywall):
In SEC filings, AT&T and Verizon have recommended shareholders vote against the resolution. And Sprint has asked the SEC to reconsider its decision in an attempt to keep the issue from getting airtime during its annual meeting on May 15.
The latest twist in the shareholder saga came earlier this week when Sprint formally snubbed shareholders by not including the net neutrality proposal in its preliminary proxy filing. Sprint told POLITICO the measure was left off its preliminary ballot “pending our request for reconsideration with the SEC.”
We love that these shareholders have the conscience to fight for access and innovation on the mobile web. After all, there’s only one internet: why should we be relatively protected from discrimination or completely subject to carrier whims depending on how we connect? As we’ve said many times, the future of music is mobile. Let’s do everything to ensure that independent artists and labels can compete on a level playing field. Show your support for the shareholder push right here.
The persistence of these shareholders has garnered Congressional attention, this time of the helpful variety. Politico:
Just weeks before the SEC issued its decision, a group of Democratic senators — including Al Franken (Minn.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), John Kerry (Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Mark Udall (Colo.) — signed onto a letter urging commissioners to “consider the overwhelming evidence that Internet freedom is a significant policy issue.”
Kerry, who owns AT&T stock, according to OpenSecrets.org, told POLITICO that he supports the proposal now that it’s going to a vote.
Your move, carriers.