Mobile

Verizon comes out strong against wireless net neutrality vote

Not surprisingly, Verizon continues to be vehemently opposed to wireless net neutrality — so much so that it’s urging investors to vote against a new resolution that presses the issue.

Following an SEC ruling last month that wireless carriers must let their shareholders vote on net neutrality — the notion that web traffic should be treated equally, no matter its origin or destination — Verizon has included a resolution about it in its latest proxy statement.

“The open (non-discriminatory) architecture of the Internet is critical to the prosperity of our economy and society,” the company wrote in the resolution. “We believe this economic and social value is an important factor in the growth of our economy and widely diversified investment portfolios… 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.”

But Verizon’s board isn’t letting the resolution pass without a fight, urging shareholders to vote against it with a blistering response. The board writes that the proposal “will harm Verizon’s ability to provide robust and secure wireless broadband service to its customers.”

It’s an old argument, but one that the board backs up by pointing out that even the FCC doesn’t approve wireless net neutrality yet (it only supports wireline net neutrality). A wireless proposal “was rejected by the FCC in its recently adopted rules addressing net neutrality issues,” Verizon’s board writes. “The FCC recognized that managing a broadband network in “non-neutral” ways was critical to ensuring network integrity, providing security capabilities and reducing congestion.”

This certainly isn’t a black and white argument. Wireless and wireline networks differ drastically when it comes to their infrastructure and management — and as more consumers jump to smartphones and 4G data plans, the difference between the two will become all the more clear. I’m personally all for net neutrality, but when it comes to wireless networks, we may need to find a middle ground that both activists and carriers can live with.

Here’s the full response from Verizon’s board:

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.

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