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Letter From Verizon to FCC Details Their Stance on Bootloaders

verizon fcc bootloader

Android and bootloaders, a topic we can’t seem to get away from. Starting back with the locking of the original Motorola Milestone and then kicking into overdrive with the DROID X, the battle of consumers vs. OEMs and carriers has been an ugly one. As many of you know, a locked bootloader denies an end user the ability to take full advantage of their device. For those that choose to hack on their phones, install custom ROMs, etc., this is the piece of the puzzle that can ruin it all.

Companies like HTC, Samsung, and even LG have been pretty open for the most part when it comes to bootloaders, however, there is one that remains hell bent on keeping them as secure as possible: Motorola. In fact, we have the history of their stance on locked bootloaders documented here. But is it all Moto’s fault? Initially, they were the target, but after publicly placing blame on carriers for their bootloader locking, it’s clear that there are numerous parties involved. 

So Moto’s number one carrier partner here in the U.S. is Verizon with their “DROID” brand, making them another major target of complaints for developers and hackers of smartphones. Big Red has mostly remained silent on the bootloader situation, that is until now. In a letter from a Verizon executive analyst to the FCC that was obtained by us, we get a pretty clear and unsurprising idea as to why they may request that OEMs lock the bootloaders on phones that will run on their network. And for reference, this letter was in reply to a reader of ours that issued a formal complaint to Verizon and the FCC, stating that they are not allowed to lock the bootloaders of phones.

You will notice a reference to violating the “Block C license” which was a part of Verizon’s purchase of the 700 MHz LTE band. It has all sorts of legal jargon in it that essentially states what Verizon is allowed and not allowed to do with its new network. A few months back, a point was raised that it includes a reference to not being allowed to “lock” a phone which some took to mean bootloaders, hence the reasoning for the initial letter to Verizon and FCC by our reader. I argued that “locking” in this situation has absolutely nothing to do with bootloaders and instead network access. But I digress.

So what is Verizon’s policy? According to this letter, they choose to have OEMs lock bootloaders because they want to continue to reach a “standard of excellence in customer service” that they have set. They feel that if they allow their phones to be unlocked, that they could potentially lessen the experience for users who choose to unlock as well as others on their network that do not. Since they take approved software seriously (and some times too damn slowly), they don’t want to see “unapproved” software running on a large number of handsets on their network.

Never once to do they mention security, something we thought for sure would be mentioned. They did, however, mention that they try to provide the best solution “for as many customers as possible,” which could mean a couple of things. My immediate thought is that they feel that the ROM and unlocking community is so small that choosing this route will not affect the majority perception of them and that they can live with the bit of backlash.

Again, it’s not a surprising stance, but this is one of the only times that we have ever actually seen them mention “bootloader” in anything official. One thing is clear, that the developer community has made a significant enough splash to at least garner an official response from Verizon to the FCC. That never hurts, right?

Cheers Coderedpl!

  • Brownstone706

    To the looser who has nothing better to do than whine about bootloaders, GET A LIFE!

  • likemyphone

    EVERYONE, needs to speak up and be heard on this.  This is not a matter of not only what they convey BUT rather, your rights being taken away as a consumer.  When we purchase a device, we should have the right to customize it as we choose.  IT is not effecting the carrier, it only effects us, the user.  It’s like buying a car and being told that you can’t change the stereo, deck out the interior or replace the rims with nice chrome custom rims. WE THE PEOPLE need to stand up to big corporations and stop this, before it’s to late.

  • jacksmind

    I think this is a silly argument.  I  used to work as a computer tech supporting the hardware of some PC manufacturers, but not the software.   We always had the resort to restore the system.  We’d say, “I can fix it, but you’re going to lose all your personal info. That’s the choice you made when you started experimenting.”   You can do the same here.  Sure the tech can fix it, but you’re going to get a factory wipe and reset.  The cost to VZ would be so minutely small (for a tech to go plug in the phone and press a few buttons, that you have to wonder what the real motivation is.

  • jacksmind

    PC makers should lock down the bios and boot so that people cant mess with their installs, after all that the manufacturer money when people try and mess with it. 

  • Helloimamac

    Hahahahahahahahaha. Thank you Motorola for your corporation. The majority of Android users who Root their devices don’t have a clue what they are doing and furthermore end up boot looping or bricking their device anyway and come crying to me the retail sales employer, to fix their issue. If you don’t like Moto then go with one of the other 9,482 indespensible second hand android devices out there. Or use your head and go with the only phone that draws 4 day crowds on their launch. Yeah, I’m a Mac, and proud of it.

    • jordan none

      your a dick, most average users that can figure out how to root their phones usually stumble on how to SBF their devices as well. fyi the more intelligent you try to look only proves to show how dumb your really are “retail sales employer” perhaps you mean sales associate? the prick who offers no support but tells you where to sign the new contract, furthermore your incorrect usage of “indespensible” is laughable.

  • The Pip

    ‘continue to reach a “standard of excellence in customer service” that they have set.’  How ironic of a statement since it’s a “reach” for Verizon to claim they have any customer service.  Or maybe I’m just thinking of the poor service when we moved in August and tried to keep them as our service provider.  I could be remembering the hours on hold with tech support only to be transferred five times to other areas that claimed I should be talking with tech support. It just might be the 9 hang-ups on over 16 calls during the month of August to get some sort of resolution.

    Verizon as a monopoly is the worst game in town.

  • I got one of these form letters too.

  • Hmmm I avoided Verizon for all the apparant reasons but used to think pretty highly of Motorola but now (snap) we have a crashed and burned brand that can shove their units up unpleasant places. They better be glad Google took pity on them for their patents because it sounds like they are marching toward Nokia style smartphone irrelevancy.

    Good luck Schmucks, you’ll need it.

  • I like my Samsung Google Nexus with ICS, 4G LTE….it has a beautiful AMOLED large screen, I have a custom rom with tweaks that makes the battery last all day even with apps loaded (some in cached mode but still check for updates on the schedule I request) and is one of the fastest phones I used.  why would i EVER by a phone that takes away my choice to put a custom ROM and tweak the performance either down, or up depending.  This phone has far and away been my best choice to date.

  • Michael Pitogo

    I read somewhere that T-Mobile has over 1 million unlocked iPhones yet they embrace it.  My mom being one of them calls T-Mobile and they gladly help her as long as she pays her bills…  So I don’t see how having 1 million unlocked phones on Verizon will affect their network or customer service.  T-Mobile right now doesn’t and maybe when the iPhone arrives on their network they may turn their backs on the million + loyal customers who choose to go with a slow Edge network just so they can have an iPhone on their network.

  • Balls

    ive come to terms that if i unlock my device, and mess with it , then its upto myself and the android community to help eachother out, we dont need verizon

  • username_in_use

    It’s my property, which I paid for and Verizon has absolutely no right to lock what is rightfully mine. This should be illegal to lock bootloaders. We need to fight back against greedy shareholders!
    I don’t know about you guys but I’m tired of this crap. There is nothing illegal about tethering, it’s a function that the phone performs. They wanna double charge for data (by tethering) and then cap it with fees on top of that. Worse crap excuse of a letter. Corporations have no shame to their slimy game.

    HTC Thunderbolt (Rooted)
    Cyanogenmod 2.3.7

  • lolThisIsmyName

    That argument is totally invalid. The phones that do have locked bootloaders can still be rooted and flashed and messed up by people who don’t know what they’re doing. This is about Verizon trying to lock people into their planned obsolescence for phones so that customers keep upgrading and renewing their contracts. 

  • XD

  • Dave R

    This makes no sense. There are plenty of other phones with unlocked bootloaders on Verizon and it’s not like a locked bootloader prevents people from flashing partial custom ROMs or altering the radio.

  • Then why do we have locked Motorola bootloaders outside the US? Are the guys from Motorola lazy enough not to provide an unlocked, global version of their phones? Oh, and why did they started with Milestone (the global version of Droid) and not with the Droid?
    To put the blame ONLY on Verizon is wrong and as long as any [other] carrier doesn’t come up with something official Motorola and Verizon share the blame for this situation.

  • Steve

    Verizon,  I expect no support from you after i unlocked my bootloader.  My experience is best evaluted by me.  If my experience is a negative one with a rom other than stock I have the option to return to stock.  The DECISION should be mine.

  • thajack

    I guess Verizon has specifically “approved” every piece of software in the Android market? I imagine that would take some time, right?

  • thajack

    It is also my understanding that one of the things Verizon agreed to is to not limit functionality that is built into the device. Namely, tethering.

  • Okay Verizon… Now tell us why we all need “let’s golf” and the rest of your apps on our devices and why they’re locked in place and uninstallable. If you’re aiming for excellence with your customer service why do you revoke your users choice to dump these space wasters? 

    I know.  Everyone’s said it before… I just need to because I just got a new phone preloaded with them. 

  • Papapau

    I’m from Philippines, owning an XT910 Motorola RAZR, not a droid (XT912), we are not related to the Verizon’s customer service explanation.. Indeed this is just a very much empty response..

    Kindly file a complaint for Motorola!

    Motorola!! Unlock our bootloaders!!

  • Yourmom

    That is a lame excuse, customer experience and customer service. Their customer service is aweful. The techs rarely know what they are talking about. What would happen if Dell decided to not allow anything but Windows on their PCs? I’m willing to bet there would be a huge backlash from the community. Why are we bound to the software given to us by OEMs when this essentially a mini PC in my hand. Let me do with it as i please. I paid $100+ for this device…it’s mine and i should get to do whatever i want with it.

    If another carrier ever gets as good of coverage as Verizon has, I’m gone!

  • From 2008 particularly “bottomline”: http://scrawford.net/blog/why-block-c-matters/1136/
    It’sprobably pressure to assure network protection.
    Verizon or any of them will not give anything away, and they hate when you get away with it ad there’s nothing they can do about it, ie tethering and AT&T’s throttle move. We’re thumping Big Red, but they’d all be guilty of it if they were in the catbird seat.
    WOD: oligopolist

  • TungTow

    I never really thought about it liek that before. Makes sesne dude.
    Total-Privacy dot US

  • Thach26

    I received a letter worded a little different but basically the same back on Feb 1st. Mine was from the Executive relations Coordinator. It looks as if they have a blanket statement that they are sending everyone. 

  • Kris Brandt

    All phones comes with locked bootloaders.  Motorola phones come with encrypted bootloaders.  This is most likely an attempt by Verizon and Motorola to sell particular phones to businesses and to do so, one of the “security features” they highlight is how much safer their phones are with encrypted bootloaders.

    • BrandoHD

       Not all phones come with locked bootloaders, the INternational version of the Samsung Galaxy S II does not have a locked nor encrypted bootloader, and this is the trend with many Samsung devices

  • Nearly 90% Verizon Wireless product with Droid trademark use by Motorola Mobility. Since 6 November 2009 when Motorola Droid release (Motorola Mobility, Google and Verizon Wireless); Motorola Mobility already in Verizon Wireless and Google agreement. I think thats why Motorola Bootloader still Lock.

    • I try make list Motorola product use Droid trademark and compare with other brand use Droid trademark.

      Motorola Droid, Motorola Droid 2, Motorola Droid 2 Global, Motorola Droid 3, Motorola Droid 4, Motorola Droid X, Motorola Droid X2, Motorola Droid Bionic, Motorola Droid Razr, Motorola Droid Razr Maxx, Motorola Droid XYBoard, and much more.

      How many product from other brand like Samsung, HTC, LG use Droid Trademark?

  • A lot of your arguments are pointless. Verizon’s response is an empty response.  What does the bootloader have to do with good Customer Satisfaction?  If most ppl do not flash ROMs then to those people having an unlocked bootloader WILL NOT affect them period.  This is only Verizon sticking it to the people who do flash ROMs.  Personally this does not surprise me. Verizon has ALWAYS locked down features on their phones that some of us used certain hex editing apps to unlock if you know what I mean.
    This is obviously something with Verizon and Motorola.  I’m sticking with Samsung and HTC, most of you should too. These 2 know how to make a phone.  Super Amoled screens with Exynos processors are the best as far as I’m concerned and as what the performance tests prove.  Droid is a Verizon brand let them do what they want.  Just don’t buy the phone if locked bootloader is not what you want.  For the average user it is fine.  Not sure about the Droid Maxx being the best either.  Now you just talking dumb.  The specs are just nice but not needed for everyone.  Some people may work in construction fields and need a stronger phone.  Cant really see how this phone would be any better for such a person.  At best its features are just needed for certain types of people just like any other phone but it being the best…no way.  Maybe at the moment but you do get it at a much higher cost.  Not to mention the battery…..what happens when the phone freezes up…..lets be real here…it will happen.  your phone will just be stuck or you will have to wait and wait and wait and maybe eventually turn the phone off.  Someone like me like to put phones to works with all the stuff I do so

  • S Bosworth

    The gent that sent the FCC complaint needs to get to things: a life and a clue. 

    • Troll Hunter

      Trolls should learn how to proof-read their trollings….

  • I thought that when you buy anything in America it’s yours to do with as you wish.  ‘Red’
    has regular Joe’s working to make a living but these Joe’s only read whatever their screen says to them with very little authority or knowledge with the equipment. Yes these ‘reps’ help somewhat but my Droid X2 sits here locked with no updates or  of renewing this cell.  Yes I’m upset that ‘Red” treats we American customers this way.  I vote “unlock” my Droid X2 – “it’s mine not yours”.  One more thing Red, stop shouting 4G since there’s ‘NO’ 4g near me.

  • SirGatez

    Unlock it… I have unlocked every Android smartphone from Verizon that I own. I agree that this is not something every user should do but I am against carriers or OEMs locking phones down in any way. Motorola choice to lock has left me to boycott them until they are unlocked and as such I have thus committed all of my purchases (except for my Droid 1 and Xoom) to HTC (Thunderbolt and 2 Rezounds) and Samsung (2 Fascinates and 2 Charges). I push for all carriers and OEMs to change to unlocked hardware and allow us to do what we want with equipment that each of us OWN.

  • Why not give the consumer the option to unlock the bootloader like the Galaxy Nexus has? That would allow the “unlocking community” to do what they want while allowing others to not unlock it.

    Seems like a pretty reasonable option if you ask me…

  • hey man that’s fine by me – do what you want, i will just NEVER PURCHASE A VERIZON/MOTOROLA DEVICE EVER AGAIN !

  • shanklin07

    Simple solution; Warranty will be void if you break your phone related to root procedures. Since most people don’t even know what or how to root then they obviously won’t be able to root their devices which will keep the phone in the factory condition as Verizon prefers it to be. Even if the option to root is their the majority of people won’t even know it is their because again, they don’y want to root their phone, which is their choice to not root. But for those that wish to root, they should have the ability to do so if they wish to. Having the option to root does not affect the normal user or average user or what ever you want to call the majority of Verizon customers in any way possible. So for Verizon to have OEM’s lock bootloaders is a bad decision because it negatively affects a particular crowd of their customers. Where if they chose to allow the bootloader to be unlocked, neither party would be negatively affected. Does this all make sense? 

  • FreyGrimrod

    Spam the FCC with Block C formal complaints can we get a form letter?

  • RaptorOO7

    So if Verizon is against having unlocked bootloaders then why exactly do they have the Galaxy Nexus on their network.  Clearly the Galaxy Nexus would put the network, end user experience and other network users experience in jeopardy given said unlocked bootloader.

    So what is the FCC’s position on this?

  • Jeffrey Tarman

    I’ve rooted my previous 2 phones and now I have the razr maxx.  i had no need to root, but i did. so….i would like someone to email me and tell me what their GN can do that my maxx can’t do.  and by this, i mean fresh out of the box. i can tell you that i can dunk my phone in a bucket of water without any worries that it will stop working. as for the blur, all i did was install Go Launcher Ex.  so, feel free to email me and explain why the GN is better fresh out of the box than my maxx. and please don’t say because of ROMs, i’m talking stock phones. tarman [at] gmail [dot] com

    • Josh Nichols

      No removable battery. I don’t care if it’s 3300 mAH, I want to be able to replace it when I want. What happens if the battery goes down the drain? You have to send the whole phone in instead of just buying a new battery.

      Android 2.3, which sucks compared to 4.0.
      The display on the RAZR is inferior to the display on the Nexus. If you don’t agree, it’s inferior on paper too.

      Not-Blur is still not stock android.

      Released to replace a phone that was released two months prior. Which also replaced a phone that was released two months prior. In short, the company that makes your phone doesn’t know how to release phones in a competent manner.

      You won’t see android 4.0 anytime soon.

      You will probably never see android 5.0.

      I will politely concede removable storage.

      Any phone can be fully functional after being dropped in water, all you need is a bowl of rice and some time.

      And for all the people about to say “ZOMGAH NEXUZ FANBOI”, I own a Galaxy Note.

      • TC Infantino

        Heh, Samsung Fanboy.  😛

    • BrandoHD

      Some people like the ability to customize their phone “FULLY”, not just root, we are talking themes, kernels etc, there are people that never run stock kernels as it is often bloated and not optimized, there are developers that dedicate themselves to a device, they create custom ROMS and custom kernels that utilize the device a lot better than can be done on stock.

      For example, I always prefer to remove the signal bars and display the
      actual signal strength in numerical numbers, it gives me an accurate
      reading of how much signal I have as opposed to the bars, I also remove
      the clock and the date as I have a widget that does this for me in
      addition to the weather, Can you tell me how to do this on a Droid Razr

      You asked the question “feel free to email me and explain why the GN is better fresh out of the box than my maxx” the answer is practically endless, the customization and optimization is endless, now if you have no desire to partake in this, then that is your choice, but another man can make another choice with HIS device that he OWNS, if you are not part of this community, don’t presume to know anything about it or discredit it in any way

      Also to make the statement “don’t say ROMS” is very narrow sighted as you have tried to take away just one of the many advantages of having a device with an unlocked bootloader, the fact remains that Custom Roms are part of android and the Nexus device can take advantage of this and devices with encrypted bootloaders CANNOT

  • Piotr G.

    Coderedpl here, I sent the letter in and I’m glad it was posted and re-posted to multiple areas. 

    I will be sending both the FCC and Verizon a reply but I would like to reach out to the community for any formal ideas/comments that you guys believe should be included in reply letter. Any evidence against Verizon and this policy, list of phones on verizon that have been unlocked among other things. Lawyers welcome too 😉 

    If you have any, post it up here or you can email me at [email protected] Thank you! 

  • Larizard

    Somehow, I believe something went wrong for Verizon a few months after the release of the OG Droid. Think about it, that phone was unlocked from the get go, and ever since then, they decided to lock all Motorola devices. 

  • cooksta32676

    Can somebody tell me why a bootloader is a big deal, if you can root and flash rooms anyway? Just don’t understand…

    • Coldness

      Using a bootstrap to force a ROM installation does not give you full access to the device. You cannot change certain things, the kernel being a prime example. 

    • kidtronic

      You want to be able to flash custom kernels if you want to see significant improvements in performance and battery life. At least that’s what I’ve noticed. 

  • WickedToby741

    Just brand the phones with a warning message that states “Unlocking the bootloader on your phone and installing custom software will void Verizon’s ability to provide support to the customer.” Problem solved. People that root and put custom ROMs on their phone then accept the responsibility for any damage done. It’s simple really. Heck, Verizon can even have their own bootloader unlocker that sends the device ID to Verizon to let them know a device has been unlocked if they’re really concerned about it. I still think this falls upon Motorola’s shoulders though. The Verizon argument falls apart when you look at the Atrix, Atrix 2, and Photon and also see locked bootloaders. The Atrix can be unlocked, but that was due to a leak of the bootloader unlock tool, not a sanctioned unlock.

  • RW-1

    BS… nothing more. One unlocked phone on the network invalidates this whole line of reasoning.

    Hmm, posting this from an unlocked gnex… motor has no excuses and blaming vz is just more BS.