There's a new and important voice in the ongoing fight for Net Neutrality: the voice of the shareholder.
You read that right.
Today, in an unprecedented move, AT&T shareholders voted on a proposal calling on the telecom behemoth to publicly commit to Net Neutrality on its wireless networks.
The gambit worked. The proposal attracted enough votes (5.9 percent) to guarantee it a place on next year's ballot.
"This vote at AT&T is important because it signals to media and technology companies that investors believe Network Neutrality is important -- comparable to social issues confronting other sectors where investors have successfully pressed for greater accountability," said Michael Connor, executive director of the Open Media and Information Companies Initiative (Open MIC), in a statement.
The hope is that as more shareholders realize the importance of Net Neutrality protections on wireless networks -- U.S. online retail sales are worth $145 billion a year and small businesses across the country rely on an open internet to compete with larger corporations --they'll vote for AT&T to commit to such rules in greater numbers. Year after year, the shareholder push for the open Internet will gain momentum. And the AT&T leadership will ultimately have to listen to the shareholders and commit to keeping its wireless networks open.
Meanwhile, Verizon's and Sprint's shareholders will vote on the same proposal at their upcoming annual meetings. Go here to support those shareholders in the run up to those meetings.
To be sure, this change from within won't happen overnight. But when the shareholders of giant corporations stand up for what's right, they can be an essential part of the bigger fight.
Follow Josh Levy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/levjoy