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FCC to Verizon: You Can No Longer Block Tethering Apps, Please Pay $1.25 Million to Say You are Sorry


The FCC ruled today in favor of you, the customer, telling Verizon that they were in the wrong when they blocked tethering apps from being able to be downloaded to your phone. The blocking of tethering apps, as many of you suggested a year ago, does not comply with the FCC’s “C Block rules” that were set forth when Verizon purchased the C-block spectrum for their LTE network. 

As of today, Verizon will have to notify the Google Play store that they would no longer like any of the tethering apps available, to be blocked. They are also settling the matter by paying $1.25 million to the U.S. Treasury.

GigaOM is also reporting that this new FCC ruling will force Verizon to offer tethering plans for free to tiered data customers. While that’s sort of already happening on Share Everything and not necessarily new, this report suggests that there isn’t a way for Verizon to stop unlimited customers from doing this as well. That remains to be seen, but feel free to check into it.

What a day, right?

Here is the entire press release from the FCC:



Washington, D.C. – Today the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau released a $1.25 million consent decree with Verizon Wireless that resolves an investigation into whether the company had fully complied with the FCC’s “C Block rules,” requiring licensees of C Block spectrum to allow customers to freely use the devices and applications of their choosing.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, “Today’s action demonstrates that compliance with FCC obligations is not optional.  The open device and application obligations were core conditions when Verizon purchased the C-block spectrum.  The massive innovation and investment fueled by the Internet have been driven by consumer choice in both devices and applications.  The steps taken today will not only protect consumer choice, but defend certainty for innovators to continue to deliver new services and apps without fear of being blocked.”

Verizon Wireless offers customers its 4G LTE service on C Block spectrum.  Verizon Wireless bid at auction to acquire that spectrum, understanding that it was accompanied by open device and application obligations.  Specifically, licensees offering service on C Block spectrum “shall not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of their customers to use the devices and applications of their choice on the licensee’s C Block network,” subject to narrow exceptions.

P. Michele Ellison, Enforcement Bureau Chief, said, “This case was the first of its kind in enforcing the pro-consumer open access obligations of the C Block rules.  It underscores the agency’s commitment to guarantee consumers the benefits of an open wireless broadband platform by providing greater consumer choice and fostering innovation.”

The Bureau launched an investigation after reports suggested that Verizon Wireless had successfully requested that a major application store operator block Verizon’s customers from accessing tethering applications from its online market.  (“Tethering” is using a wireless phone as a modem to obtain Internet access for another device, such as a laptop computer or tablet.)

The Commission also received an informal complaint alleging that Verizon Wireless had violated the FCC’s C Block rules by making such a request.  At that time, Verizon Wireless’s terms of service required all customers who wanted to use their phones for tethering to subscribe to the company’s Mobile Broadband Connect service, at an additional charge.  In response, Verizon Wireless stated that the additional fee reflected the fact that customers who tether laptops or other devices have the capability to use more data capacity than others.  At the time of that response, however, Verizon Wireless required not only unlimited data plan customers, but also customers who paid for data on a usage basis, to pay the additional fee.  Verizon Wireless asserted that third-party tethering applications could enable its customers to tether without paying an additional fee.

Under the terms of today’s settlement, Verizon Wireless will make a voluntary payment to the Treasury in the amount of $1.25 million, and has committed to notifying the application store operator that it no longer objects to the availability of the tethering applications to C-Block network customers in the operator’s online market.  Verizon Wireless has also agreed to implement a compliance plan, requiring that:

  • employees will receive training on compliance with the C Block rules;
  • future communications with application store operators regarding the availability of applications to Verizon Wireless customers will be reviewed in advance by legal counsel; and
  • Verizon will report any instances of noncompliance with the rule at issue that might occur during the two-year term of the plan.

In addition, the company recently revised its service offerings such that consumers on usage-based pricing plans may tether, using any application, without paying an additional fee.

Via:  GigaOM

Cheers Mike and jdhas!

  • Verizon has a long history of locking down their phones in order to Nickle and Dime you.
    You don’t remember when you had to PAY for ring tones. The USB port was blocked so you couldn’t use your PC to send your own mp3 or midi file.

    Anyone forget last scandal when they tried to make you pay a fee to pay your bill?

    Verizon’s is only out for itself and at the first of the year I’m paying off my contract and going to Virgin.

  • julius

    Will the ics update unroot my rooted rezound?

  • dmagicp

    And There you have it. What was once considered “stealing” is now normal. And what was the corporate “almighty” is now the criminal. Funny how things change. Next they are going to make them stop teired data. Wait and see.

  • Larizard

    Ah, would it be wrong for me to disconnect my laptop from my home wifi and tether through my phone instead? #sweetrevenge #fcukverizon

  • Can you please do a follow up article soon about which tethering apps are now the best to use? I personally use FoxFi but myself, and possibly others, may want to know what our best options are. Id really appreciate it! Thanks!

  • “Hmmmm…we can’t charge them for tethering apps anymore, so lets force them to buy something useless with new plans…like unlimited calling. That way we can cover the cost and they’ll be none the wiser! ::hahahhaHAHAHAHAHA BWWWWAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!”

  • Sara Rosensteel

    I wonder if this means that LTE phone builds will get the tethering option put back into the menu. (I hope so.) Tethering natively is so superior to having to use an app or ROM.

    Also, I’m curious as to why unlimited data could potentially still get charged at all. Aren’t we using the C spectrum as well?

  • Lucky Armpit

    This is flippin’ fantastic!! Now I can tether everything in my house to my Razr Maxx since I have 4G (finally in my area) and unlimited data still. Let the download-fest begin!!

  • leimeisei

    Can’t you just use the tethering built into the phone? I always use the Droid Razr’s built in tethering and I’ve never gotten an extra item on the bill for it somehow…

  • nessa

    yay 😀 we just got lte turned on this past month and now i can take more advantage of my unlimited b4 my contract is up. 1 week into my billing cycle i already used 5gb on speed tests lol cant wait to use my laptop on lte.

  • Luxferro

    The sooner the FCC says the consumer should be able to use the data they paid for in any way they want the better. No more scamming by cell providers!

  • Bionic

    I can’t believe they never went after foxfi

  • I’m just wondering what Verizon is going to do to make back that $1.25M that they are going to be paying to the U.S. Treasury. Something stupid I’m sure of it.

  • lovehate

    So what about data throttling that’s restricting the use of my phone

  • Justice

  • chris k

    this would be excellent news hadn’t verizon switched to shared data plans, now with shared data you dont have to pay extra to use the wifi hotspot as long as your on a shared data plan