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Tethering Complaint Filed Against Verizon with FCC by Free Press

Oh baby.  The blocking of tethering apps by Verizon just got very real after a complaint was filed today through the FCC by Free Press which could potentially impact the future of LTE.  This has been one of those hot subjects around Droid Life over the last few weeks, so we couldn’t help but smile a little when we saw a group of this magnitude taking it straight to the top.

As you may recall, we first reported news that tethering apps had either been removed or purposefully blocked from being viewed and downloaded to Verizon devices.  The move wasn’t necessarily a surprise since we know that Verizon likes to force you into purchasing an additional mobile hotspot service on top of your data plan, but the move was bold.  And then just last week we noticed that even if you had managed to load up a third party app from outside the market to tether, that Verizon was blocking you from doing so.

People grew angry at this for a number of reasons – and the complaint filed today by Free Press pretty much touches on them all.  

We pulled some points out to highlight the arguments they have given to the FCC over blocking tethering apps on LTE (which is where their arguments stands strongest):

  • Verizon’s actions in cutting off access to tethering applications unlawfully “limit” and“restrict the ability” of its customers “to use the devices and applications of their choice.” This practice [blocking tethering apps] restricts consumer choice and hinders innovation regardless of which carrier adopts such policies, but when Verizon Wireless employs these restrictions in connection with its LTE network, it also violates the Federal Communications Commission’s rules.  When Verizon purchased the spectrum licenses associated with its LTE network, it agreed that it would not “deny, limit, or restrict” the ability of its users to access the applications and devices of their choosing.
  • Removing applications from the Android Market severely limits and restricts their distribution. Removing [tethering] applications from the Android Market severely restricts their use.  [Meaning they are harder to find than other apps in the market, therefore are not as easily available as all apps should be.]
  • Mobile broadband providers, including Verizon, offer their own expensive tetheringservices that compete with the free and low-cost options offered in the Android Market. Mobile broadband providers have a financial stake in limiting access to third-party tethering applications. As noted above, many tethering applications are available for free or for a modest fee.  By contrast, when Verizon introduced the Droid, it charged $30 per month for tethering service on top of its $30 per month “unlimited” data plan.

I don’t know that I would get overly excited about this news just yet, but at the same time, we’ll all be wanting to pay close attention to how this unfolds.  I will say though that not only would a ruling to either side by the FCC change the way data is handled on Verizon, it would also likely change the entire smartphone industry in the U.S.

Some thoughts that come to my mind immediately are:

  • Let’s say the FCC tells Verizon it can no longer force us into mobile hotspot plans.  What does that do to our monthly data  bills?  We were already expecting higher data prices this summer with LTE, but can you imagine what they would look like if tethering became uncontrolled?
  • And what if the FCC says, “We think Verizon is fine in doing this.”  Good bye tethering for life.

So, what do you guys think?

Via:  Free Press [PDF], PCWorld

Cheers Corey!

  • jbonics

    I never used my free wifi teather besides testing it, but I’m pissed, so happy I never bought the xoom from big V. More like big /

  • jbonics

    I never used my free wifi teather besides testing it, but I’m pissed, so happy I never bought the xoom from big V. More like big /

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=23930729 J Quinn Adams

    This is simply more justification for tiered data plans. They should drop any tethering fees and simply have you pay for the gigabytes that you want to have. No weird service guidelines, no blocking apps and no freeloading by users.

  • Windexwife73

    If you are tetheing to get your info back and forth there is a simple purpose, if you are using as an internet connection and a lot of us are using it, it will clog up the path and slow it down, so for a charge to use the toll roads of wireless (if you will)…not sure of any unlimited plan, but you really can use a lot more than than you can on your phone, guitar hero, streaming video and music, YouTube ect… because yes, it is bigger and easier on the computer side…you will see how fast the usage goes up and sometimes over the plan, costing $$$ so not always a perfect solution for everyone, something I had to learn the hard way…

  • Art

    I get so aggravated with Verizon. I’ve looked into the possibilities of using cellular internet access for emergency support issues when I’m on vacation. I can not justify the expense of a year long contract for the three, or so, times when I could possibly need it. In my opinion, data is data. If unlimited is really limited, then that is false advertising. As it is, I am required to buy more services than I use. Even with tethering, I doubt my usage would increase noticeably of the period of a year. Give me a break Verizon.

    • Anonymous

      First of all, you can purchase the tethering on a month to month basis and do not have to purchase it for 2 years to get your “limited” needs covered.

      You opinion is yours… and you are entitled to it… but that doesn’t make it so.

      Unlimited is set to certain terms or conditions (in this case, it is “on your phone”), you cannot change the conditions and then claim false advertising.

  • Anonymous

    Does anyone else phone still tether? I used my Droid to tether yesterday (just to test again) and it worked fine.

  • Anonymous

    Does anyone else phone still tether? I used my Droid to tether yesterday (just to test again) and it worked fine.

  • SprottheDestroyer

    Verizon was throttling me before I was rooted and before I had a tethering app. Because on my phone, watching things like news videos, youtube, and foxdotcom. I was using almost 10 gigs a month with just my phone(I didn’t have a tv or a job for almost 3 months). Still payed my bill on time(workmanscomp, blownout knee, recovering from surgery). And I still got throttled by verizon when I was using my “unli/mited” data plan exactly within the rules of my contract. It actually made me root my phone because I was getting the exact same punishment as people that tether and are rooted. And I got emails to prove it. Emails from verizon reps and customer service. Multiple emails. F**k verizon.

  • SprottheDestroyer

    Verizon was throttling me before I was rooted and before I had a tethering app. Because on my phone, watching things like news videos, youtube, and foxdotcom. I was using almost 10 gigs a month with just my phone(I didn’t have a tv or a job for almost 3 months). Still payed my bill on time(workmanscomp, blownout knee, recovering from surgery). And I still got throttled by verizon when I was using my “unli/mited” data plan exactly within the rules of my contract. It actually made me root my phone because I was getting the exact same punishment as people that tether and are rooted. And I got emails to prove it. Emails from verizon reps and customer service. Multiple emails. F**k verizon.

    • Guest007

      just a question. how can you tell that you are being throttled? care to enlighten me?

      • Anonymous

        my guess would be they alerted him.  or he could have used a speed test app and noticed that it never got up to where it had previously

        • SprottheDestroyer

          When I can’t log on to my homepage of google with four bars and 3g, yet my girlfriend who is sitting next to me, can(has exact same phone and on a share plan) and I can’t use my browser(gives me the message, no data connection) and I can’t play any game that uses data(but when using someones wifi I can) and when I email verizon about the problem after a week of that crap, when I emailed verizon my data magically started flowing again. Id say that’s throttling.

          • SprottheDestroyer

            Now that happens everyday, but not continuously. At least with wifi tether, I can browse undisturbed. I can now visit every webpage I want instead of every third webpage on my phones browser failing to load up with a message that says “no data connection detected” still says I got 3g and four bars. That’s not a dead zone. Especially with my girlfriend and my friends all having verizon phones yet I am only one that happens to.

  • Anonymous

    tinyurl.com/2df4ccp

  • http://twitter.com/JoeTodisco Joe

    Verizon should of thought twice before offering “Unlimited” Data – it’s like
    my home internet service provider saying I cannot use my phone on my Wi-Fi
    network because it is only for “Home Computing”.

    Deal with it Verizon until you can change your plans and have caps in place…how much profit is
    enough before you stop ripping off your customers.  Tethering has been out
    there for years and your network and profits have been just fine.

    Just sayin’….

    • Tito

       Should of thought twice?????? They offer you  unlimited data on your phone. By using tethering without paying for it you are the one who is violating the contract not Verizon.  And this “my home internet service provider saying I cannot use my phone on my Wi-Fi network because it is only for “Home Computing”. Makes absolutely no sense at all.

  • Anonymous

    tinyurl.com/2a7usxg

  • http://twitter.com/GODROAR Charles Lee

    The last time I payed for Verizon tethering, it did not work very well at all.  It constantly dropped out and it was limited to 2GB…this is 2011…putting a 2GB cap on data is in no way fair considering the money we pay the carriers and how slow the service is.  U.S. carriers need to stop focusing on limiting us and focus more on building  BETTER TECHNOLOGY that enables more and more people to run fast and free.  It seems like the carriers go crazy signing up millions of customers and then imposing ridiculous limits and charges.  Go Free Press!

  • Buckgrad

    And its not just wireless tethering. The official latest upgrade removed pdanet from my phone, which they also had removed from the market. My computer was able to reload it, but now I get a message that there is a “small update” available in the market. Not about to touch the link…that’s how I lost Netflix initially.

  • http://profiles.google.com/jimmyg21 James Goldsmith

    I think the first bullet is where they will be able to hit hardest with that. If big red is in violation of their agreement w/ the FCC then that is where the most leverage can be used. The last two seem to touch more on anti trust and free trade issues. This is something that Verizon can argue that they “could” allow tethering apps that still require an authentication from Verizon that the device trying to tether has the required tethering plan.

  • Anonymous

    Best thing to do is … Get a Nexus S for Sprint……….I believe the google device will never loose the features of thetering esp. with Sprint being the Google carrier of choice atleast in near future.

  • Anonymous

    If these 3 are the strongest points, they’re screwed.  The 3rd point is the only relevant one (the other two could be used if Verizon blocked a “Kill the (insert name of ethnic group)” app.  Basically the Free Press is lying by omission.  Yes the LTE auction said that Verizon could not block, degrade or interfere with devices and apps.  Except it added “subject to reasonable network management”.  This part Free press leaves out.  Its that part that would allow Verizon to block free tethering apps.  I don’t think anyone could say with a straight face that allowing unlimited free tethering, which is what the Free Press is arguing for, would be good for Verizon’s network health.  Being forced to allow free tethering apps would be forcing Verizon to accept massive amounts of traffic on its network and would result in the immediate end to all “unlimited” plans.
    A better lawsuit would be against false advertising of the “unlimited” plans.

    • Anonymous

      if the “problem” is that too much bandwidth is being used, then Verizon has already figured out a “solution”.  They cap the bandwidth of the top 5% users – and now, somehow, they also need to remove ALL unpaid for tethering?  But they’re already nerfing their connections, supposedly in an effort to fix the “problem” of bandwidth usage….

      This is entirely a money grab.  It has nothing to do with their bandwidth – they can already throttle it down to nothing if you’re harming the network.  Why do they need to block tethering from people who might fall in the bottom half of users bandwidthwise?  The answer – they don’t.  They just want to charge you more when you’re using less data than average already.

  • RonsterWVU

    I don’t see this going through at all, the days of people being able to free tether is done.

    I don’t have the solution to the above post, mainly because I don’t have the passion to care.
    When I was running Froyo, and had free tethering… I never used it anyway.
    I think this might of had to do with CDMA… Maybe it would of been different with LTE…
    The whole phone call stops the tethering, annoying!

    I can see this getting crushed pretty quickly.
    The arugment above is just silly, and if i worked for the FCC and read that.
    I wouldn’t even think twice about it, sounds just like a cry fest.

    Plus – Verizon can always pull the “If you don’t like it leave card!”

  • Anonymous

    Free Press?  Great.  These people are whacko leftists who I’d rather not be involved in this debate.

  • http://toobig.net TooBIG

    I honestly don’t mind paying the extra 20 bucks a month if it wasn’t limited to 2GB.  I don’t think people would bitch as much if it were unlimited.  

  • Anonymous

    In Guam we have a carrier that doesn’t charge extra for tethering. Yet their plans cost a bit more than the other three so it pretty much just equals out.

  • Sparticus_78

    When I read about this hear. What I want to know is how the find out if you are using such an app.! They have to monitoring packets which I didn’t think they could do

    • SprottheDestroyer

      They can monitor you google account that’s based from the mobile phone, so they know exactly which apps you have from the android market. And they can do it legally cause the account is connected to your phone. And verizon can monitor anything connected to their network, ie your phone, your google account, your apps

      • Guest007

        incorrect, they cannot “monitor” anything. the 1979 privacy act along with certain FCC rules do not allow this.

      • Anonymous

        online android market linked apps are saved by your google account. unless Im wrong, but thats how i understand it since google will not restore my 3rd party apps. hell, they dont even save my market apps data.

  • Poker4400

    Ok how can verizon put a advertisement on TV telling
    you to streem Netflix from your phone to your to TV. Then turn around and say streeming data to your computer is wrong. Just sounds like a money scam to me.

  • Anonymous

    Verizon was going to charge for tethering because it could get away with it. Someone made the argument here that it is “stealing”. Want to know what is stealing? Charging for texts that cost the telcoms $0.00.

    A $29.99 data plan is on par with bundled cable internet plan. You are paying for TV and internet to keep your services in one place, same as with the Telcoms except you don’t have a choice. You want a smartphone, you pay for not only a monthly plan, but on top of that you pay for data usage. Want to use that data how you see fit? You pay even more. Making an average bill upwards of $150 a month. Add three more smartphones on a family plan? And now you have more than a car payment every month. The dichotomy is that they will sell you on “blazing fast internet speeds” then (very soon) tell you that you are only allowed X amount of data per month before they start raping you for the extra $$.

    The solution to all this is having a company(s) not tied to the telcoms that offers data strictly on it’s(their) own while the telcoms provide the cell service and their own data service, therefore enabling competition in the marketplace and benefiting the consumer. But the lobbyists that infect Washington would never allow something like that to transpire (sorry for the soapbox digression).

    I agree with Kellex, there are really only two outcomes to this. Neither one will benefit the consumer in any way. They know you will keep shoveling your money to them religiously every month because you have no real options.

    • EC8CH

      +1

      I’ve always said the most ridiculous fees are the $20/month texting plans.

      The whole situation is caused more by the lack of real competition in the wireless industry and the lack of any real FCC oversight, as opposed to off contract tethering.

  • Yahoo

    If I have unlimited data on my phone should i worry how much data my phone uses? what if I work as video editor and often find myself watching HQ video demo? What about this one, what if I could watch hours of free streaming tv on my phone from my homeland via web browsing? Then on top of that add web browseing, social app, youtube, and all of the little thing, they can easily add to 5 or 6 GBs a month. I do half of this thing excluding tethering and get close to 6GBs a month, My point is, is not about how much you use but how much money they can make of you! Verizon is just like any other business, they are all here for the money…

  • http://twitter.com/timberwolfkw Kyle Wilkins

    I can see it now. “Google Tethering” or “Tether by Google” app. That would be a great app. With HTC unlocking the bootloader maybe they’ll throw in a tether app in the ‘bloatware’ and really give the middle finger to big red.

  • Rocktoonz

    My guess is that the only thing that will come from this will be that carriers can no longer claim that their data plans are ‘unlimited’ but it’s going to be an interesting story to watch to be sure.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jrbonser Bob Bonser

      The only thing that will come of this is an END to our unlimited plans. No more $29.95 for unlimited Data.  It will be $1.99 for every KB used.  The only people that will win in a case like this is the Lawyers.  In the end, we will lose.

      • Rocktoonz

        That’s already coming to an end anyway.

      • Anonymous

        Id disagree. data started w/ pay per byte and ppl werent biting because it’s an outrageous price. Unlimited plans were due to end, all for the better since unlimited never means unlimited anymore.

        data pricing may go up w the justifying excuse, but in less than 2 yrs, it’s going to drop back down again to a reasonable price because truth of the matter is tethering itself makes less of a dent to verizon’s wallet than Rooters, and rooters are less than 1% (insignificant as so many would like to claim), and competitive pricing will balance out again.

  • corey

    YEAH I MADE IT TO DROIDLIFE! I provided this news :)

  • Anonymous

    Truth in advertising, meet net neutrality.  Someone needs to hold ISP’s feet to the fire on their ‘unlimited data’ claims. If a fight over tethering starts that conversation I say go get ‘em. If the FCC had a single testicle in their collective pants they would’ve fought this battle when internet communications moved from analog to digital.

  • Rizzidy

    Quit standing on the sidelines and file your own complaints.  There is real power in numbers.  Stop being pussies.

  • Cb2000a

    Tiered data plans…they are coming to Verizon….then tethering should not matter. 

  • Tom

    Taken from Verizon Wireless’s Customer Agreement(That we all agreed to!) on their website:

    “If you cancel a line of Service, or if we cancel it for good cause, during its contract term, you’ll have to pay an early termination fee. If your contract term results from your purchase of an Advanced Device after November 14, 2009, your early termination fee will be $350 minus $10 for each full month of your contract term that you complete. (For a complete list of Advanced Devices, check verizonwireless.com/advanceddevices.) Otherwise, your early termination fee will be $175 minus $5 for each full month of your contract term that you complete. Cancellations will become effective on the last day of that month’s billing cycle, and you are responsible for all charges incurred until then. Also, if you bought your wireless device from an authorized agent or third–party vendor, you should check whether they charge a separate termination fee.”

    Good cause would = getting a service Verizon Wireless charges for for free.

    If the FCC rules for us to tether, How many news stories of customers being terminated and paying huge ETF’s would it take to stop others?  I’m sure they can track who uses tethering apps.

    • Anonymous

      is that the exact breakdown for the ETA?  In that case, breaking the contract 1 month before it expires would still cost you $110 even though the monthly charge for the account would be less…

  • Ryan C

    Just think if Verizon had to financially compensate the Developers whose apps they blocked over the total time they blocked them from market on Verizon devices! Wow…. yikes.

  • Anonymous

    The problem we have is that between the 2 major players, neither one wants to separate itself from the pack. One does something and immediately the other follows. It’s unfortunate that the other 2 players just don’t have the coverage. People think just because the have unlimited data now, it can’t be taken away. Yoo-hoo. Wake-the-fuck-up.

    Now this tethering crap. When’s the lawsuit coming for ATT?

  • Ryan C

    Dam* it Verizon! Just provide the data and phones and let us do as we wish since WERE paying YOU. and better yet, then you can just let life go on and not worry yourselves over us using the data we already pay for. Thanks again.

  • Wyveryx

    In a strange way I can only see good coming from this.

    1. If VZW wins this and can restrict tethering to their own $$ version, then i predict some other company, don’t know who, will take advantage of it and say, bring your phones and we’ll let you tether. That provides an upstart or current company with more $$ and dents the mighty Big Red.

    2. If VZW loses, well we already knew that prices for data would be increasing, and if it gets insane, then perhaps there would be grounds for another case on price gouging, or fixing the market. After all, if VZW says no, wait, you can’t do this, then throws in their own version, then there might be a case there. Might even be able to get out of contract without ETF’s because of shady wording in the contract. After all, just because a contract is a legal document, doesn’t make it law or in fallible.

    I’m just speaking on the top of my head here, and there is prolly nothing here on #2, but I think Big Red has reached a line that it might not want to cross just yet. It just seems like bad business to me to corner people while on contract.

    My two cents…

  • Anonymous

    ” When Verizon purchased the spectrum licenses associated with its LTE network, it agreed that it would not “deny, limit, or restrict” the ability of its users to access the applications and devices of their choosing.”

    Verizon, you’re BUSTED!

  • http://twitter.com/hpizzy Hiral Patel

    Questions? How can Verizon legal begals try to win the case? What will FCC require from Verizon to show costs associated with Data usage? What will us as consumers need to say as an argument to why tethering should be free with non market apps? Could Verizon pull the “safety card”? – non market apps are more prone to hacker and terror attacks!!!

  • Bryan Bacon

    OH snap! take that verizon! try and block a app on my phone? i dont think so!

  • Hay_dusten

    this is ridiculous practice charging for tethering. thats like paying for internet at home, then paying and extra fee to have a wireless router for other devices

    • Tito

       No, that’s not what its like at all. Your paying for unlimited data to your mobile phone only. That’s what you signed up for and that’s what they provide.

    • Anonymous

      Cable broadbands use to do that. Dont kno if any legal actions resulted from it but eventually it stopped becoming against TOS to use our connection on multiple devices.

      hope this results in the same.

  • Anonymous

    tinyurl.com/2a7usxg

  • Anonymous

    I have read about this subject numerous times, in numerous forums. Both sides of the argument have some valid points, but one thing I have not seen mentioned that seems to be a huge deal to me anyway is that I don’t receive any credit for all the data I use from wi fi! I’m on it at work, on it at home, on it when I travel etc. I could probably be using 5 to 10 times the “data” on big red if I didn’t use wi fi yet I don’t see a 10 or 20 credit on my bill when I do. So, if I tether a few MB here and there, I still think they owe me. Just saying….

    • Anonymous

      yes, this is hardly ever mentioned in perspective to tethering data. Ive thrown the thought around a handful of times but not many are taking notice. I give back in using my own wifi far more than I tether. and i dont really tether at all, almost to the point of nonexistent . 

      Iv come to the point where i refuse to use my own wifi because I expect vzw to fulfill their services at 30$.mo

      • Anonymous

        i’ve been doing the same.  I now refuse to use wi-fi at home – partly because tWC sucks but also because I know I’m a low-end user when it comes to data and if I’m getting thrown under the bus with the few users who abuse the system then I’m going to get what I can out of it.

    • Jorje

      Don’t you see? It’s always an opportunity for them to get more money.Before wi-fi was allowed on smartphones they were charging on cellular data without complaining about traffic.Right now when wi-fi is “allowed” they found the tethering issue to complain about the traffic of 0.004% of the users and again to charge more money.

  • Twist30azn2002

    What will happen?

    Everyone will root their phones, and Verizon would stand to lose more since their bloatware would reach less.

  • Mtknight80

    I agree that bandwidth and data should be viewed differently. The data u get on ur device is limited only by ur plan (unlimited data is unlimited no matter what data u send or receive) but bandwidth should be limited by ur connection (3g or 4g etc). We see this tiering already in our homes in the choices we make regarding internet speeds. Let the free market decide what we pay. In the end the consumer will win if we have choices.

  • http://twitter.com/TheBarbee alex barbee

    let em try to block tethering. The community has found it’s way around things before. 
    Let the devs work on it and find a workaround. they usually do

  • YayIWon

    Verizon better get it together or II’m switching to Sprint.

    • Anonymous

      Just switch already. Anyone who needs WiFi tethering should just switch. Problem solved.

  • Djstar2k2

    $40 for unlimited data im cool w/ any more is bogus.  but all i can think of is can some due the same against oems over skins?

  • 3crapdice3

    Once again the dev community is its own worst enemy. Complain about bootloaders, and get them unlocked. At what cost? I believe we’re going to all find out rather shortly. Tiered data, restricted apps, voiding insurance claims because people are rooted etc. 

    • Joelseph

      You may be right.  Lots of beds being made in this situation, especially once the FCC gets involved.  Yikes.

  • Joelseph

    I still think natural competition provides the fairest circumstances.  The screaming minority could very well make a bad problem much MUCH worse.  The FED should only be stepping in when something totally outrageous happens. Otherwise, let them make people mad till they lose customers to the other guys, and then they’ll have to entice them back by rethinking their strategy.

    More than meets the eye to this one.

    • Joelseph

      BTW FED as in Federal Govt, not Federal Reserve, heh…

  • Howard Stern

    I don’t mind paying for tethering but for fucks sake don’t charge me $50 for a few gigs a month, ide rather have limited speeds, limited data is a pain in the ass!