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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:

VERIZON WIRELESS TO PAY $1.25 MILLION TO SETTLE INVESTIGATION 

INTO BLOCKING OF CONSUMERS’ ACCESS TO CERTAIN MOBILE BROADBAND APPLICATIONS 

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!

  • Phyrxes

    Regarding this and the wife’s Thunderbolt (not rooted) can I set her up to use Foxfi to connect over wifi or does it have to use bluetooth until it gets ICS.

  • eddy

    take that verizon!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carlos-Flores/100000456291225 Carlos Flores

    ok , yes i know im a noob , but is it against verizon policy to tether ovr 4g with unlimited as of right now , and whats the conseqence

  • unrealpunisher

    Wondering if the blocking of Google Wallet can now be justified?

  • Tiyjuan

    Now my question is when will they stop blocking Google Wallet?

    • unrealpunisher

      wondering the same thing!

    • Harbo99

      Not sure what phone you have but devs on XDA have a mod to get it working on the verizon S3. DL had a post about it the other day.

    • Gabriel Brandao

      VZW Galaxy S3
      http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1794727http:// – I did it yesterday and can confirm it worked for me

  • http://twitter.com/JohnnyACE562 GRAND MASTER SEN$Ei {{-_-}}™

    Sadly, Big Red will just find a way to punish us for this. {{v_v}}

  • http://twitter.com/JohnnyACE562 GRAND MASTER SEN$Ei {{-_-}}™

    Reduce the size of government WHY??? {{^_^}}

  • ericsorensen

    They need to refund all those $20/mo bills they collected for everyone that paid for tethering that wasn’t on an unlimited plan.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Bailey/1587142906 Adam Bailey

    So, that 1.25 mill is coming to the customers they ripped off right?

    • Doan

      They, no doubt, made much more than $1.25 million from this.

  • Havoc70

    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.

    This statement implies that the LTE network cannot be blocked from tethering which is great for the 4G users whether they are on a tiered plan or unlimited.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/OLSUNFTYSG7MQYRGB7IXNPVZR4 John W

    For the first time ever, I like the FCC! :)

  • JY20

    “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.”

    They only allowed tethering for usage-based pricing plans so that the customer will use more data and then they can charge them an arm and a leg for overage fees! Verizon is ridiculous now!

  • UncagedChipmunk

    Now we need to get Google Wallet unblocked too

  • cb2000a

    Big thumbs up to the FCC…will send a message to other carriers as well.

  • storm35x

    Apple will probably sue over the patent of having a Bootloader, and a screen, oh and buttons too lol

  • chedberg88

    Well score one for the little guy.

  • nightscout13

    F U Verizon…. We the consumers win

    • Champion1229

      In the end we loose, because they’re gonna pay that fine with the money you pay them.

      • nightscout13

        As long as i get to tether, then i win.

        • Champion1229

          You haven’t been tethering? Apps like ClockworkMod’s tether and FoxFi are awesome and free!

          • nightscout13

            I have been.

  • lye

    This is awesome.

  • Udispyn

    Yay stick one to big red for once, Now they will have to raise prices’s of the share everything plan to make their money back, I’m sticking with my unlimited till something better comes along.

  • rodney11ride

    Been averaging 12gbs a month for the last few months since my area has full 4g now… home internet service bye bye. I walk into the house and BAM wifi hotspot connects to everything from tv to computer to wifi baby monitor to wifi A/C thermostat to wifi sprinkler timer to what ever else i feel like using to tell Verizon to SHUV IT

  • SeanBello

    happy to see the US Treasury got their money since they were so wronged -_-

  • DanWazz

    That’s nice of Verizon to allow people to use the data they pay for the way they want to. This will probably work out for Verizon, since they are looking for tiered data customers to use more data anyway.

  • yo

    Hmmm. Just lost 4G on my Gnex and I’m on the unlimited data. Hope vz is not forcing everyone on the unlimited to 3G

  • Tim Buchanan

    Does this mean that we can now legally tether without fear of repercussions?

  • http://www.vinsonimages.com yamaha83

    no rule against them throttling data speed though…

    • SeanBello

      that would be a penalty, wouldn’t it?

  • Common Sense

    How could this not apply to unlimited data? Nothing in statement states anything revelant.. And could this apply to forcing unlocked bootloaders?

    • Droidzilla

      We’ll see. They have yet to do anything with this ruling; the tethering restrictions being taken out of the ToS was something Verizon did on its own when it switched to shared data, if I understand it correctly. We’ll see how unlimited usage, bootloaders, etc. pan out in the future.

  • Sean Wood

    Wow… Doesn’t it actually feel good when the government machine works for the citizery… :-)

    • http://twitter.com/SparkysShocker SparkysShocker

      No because it means we are still paying for it

  • Brian

    Guess who gets the pay that $1.25 Million.

  • noc007

    $1.25 mil is just a drop in the bucket for them and it means little now their new plans include tethering. Unlimited plans aren’t affected and usage plans still got screwed out of money which only a small fraction of those profits will end up paying for this “fine”. VZW still came out ahead IMHO and got to violate the rules without much repercussions.

    The FCC really needs to start making their fines actually hurt and be a burden. I suggest they make VZW institute a data plan that’s <$50/mo with no additional device or access fees and is unlimited. If that's not agreeable, I am fine a compromise of all of VZW's executives being stripped naked and publicly flogged.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Karl.Espinoza Karl Espinoza

    Now unlock bootloader Verizon

  • Josh Flowers

    $1.25mil sounds kinda small for a big corporation.

    been rooted since i bought my TB on release day, but LTE speeds are so horrible here there’s no point in tethering. oh well.

  • jrod691

    Hurray

  • JoeInMO

    Now if they will go after Verizon requiring locked bootloaders (another violation of the same rule) things will get better.

  • Buckoman

    I’ve been using FoxFi with a proxy set up for a few months.

    I love it. And now that it’s legal, everyone can.

    • SolipsisticPsychologist

      You must have not read FoxFi’s description thoroughly, seeing as it states that certain phones like my Rezound, can in fact not use the app to wirelessly tether, it does not work, at all, ever, never has, it doesn’t work, nope does not work, did I mention it doesn’t work? Phuckhole says the words root and phone in a reply?

      • Buckoman

        Well that’s too bad that it doesn’t work right now, but Verizon’s legally forced to stop blocking tethering applications. Yep, they’re forced to stop blocking tethering applications, as in they can’t block tethering applications from working. Did I mention they can’t block tethering apps anymore?

        Its only a matter of time before Verizon pushes an update stopping the system’s block of FoxFi and other tethering apps.

      • Artune

        My wonderful 4.0.1 GNex on verizon works on Foxfi and hopefully when your Rezound gets the update yours will too my friend.

  • Champion1229

    I read on Engadget that in the fine print it says for only limited customers (i.e. shared data users) and that Tethering apps are supposed to be blocked on Unlimited customers.

  • Philip

    I stated this in a reply below, but I will reiterate it here for all. The RECENT change verizon made in regards to tethering on tiered data was made before todays FCC ruling, and is completely seperate from it. how this affects us on unlimited data will be seen in the very near future.

  • Booyah


    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.”

    Seems to me that although it may seem that this only applies to tiered plans, that they won’t mention unlimited since they technically don’t offer them anymore. Almost seems to me that unlimited customers are in the clear! It doesn’t outright say it, but also doesn’t say anything against it.

  • Steve Benson

    Next up to the plate….BOOTLOADERS :)

    • Champion1229

      Better yet, timely updates!

  • yarrellray

    I am so glad someone tamed VERIZON with all it’s crooked ways. Verizon is one of the WORST carriers ever….

  • http://www.facebook.com/jason.hatherlee Jason Hatherlee

    Suck on my tether, Verizon.

  • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

    So, if they are going to follow the block C rules, how could this *not* apply to unlimited plans as well?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=75200646 Stephen Cox

      Yeah, that is the part that doesn’t make sense. Maybe the FCC is confused and think only people with unlimited are 3G only devices.

      • Droidzilla

        Or they were paid $1.25 million to “understand” the issue in a “fair” way.

        • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

          Exactly. Notice it says it was a “voluntary” payment to the treasury….

  • Jon
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dominick-White/642535026 Dominick White

    Damn too bad i had to give up my unlimited data plan( was on a plan with a ex)but now on a 6gb plan with the wife, thats a bit cheaper

    • SolipsisticPsychologist

      So the possibilty of paying overages is cheaper to you than a set unlimited in the clear fee every month? Strange, very strange and suspicious. I guess if one would enjoy monitoring their data every month, and living with the very real possibility that they could have to pay insane fees if they screw up, whereas it’s a complete non-issue onunlimited, yeah I could see some odd people finding that to be fun and cheaper. To each their own of course, but I view cheaper in this case, as being highly subjective andabsolutely never a guarantee if you drop unlimited and move to share everything in your wallet plans.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dominick-White/642535026 Dominick White

        yes it is a lot cheaper for me, and plus i never used that much data anyways, i got the 6gb plan just in case, but i dont think we will ever use that much data

  • hector

    I have unlimited data. Does that mean I can stop paying the tethering fee now? I’ve been paying it because I thought I was following the rules but if the rules now say I don’t need to pay the fee then I won’t.

    • DanSan

      lol you were paying for it? lololol

      • Alan

        Not everyone is okay with being unethical or immoral. Which was the case for non-payers (ie. you) before this ruling.

        • Romnen

          Confused if you have gone insane or are just trolling by replying to yourself.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=75200646 Stephen Cox

          It wasn’t unethical or immoral. We were using the network per the FCC’s license to Verizon. FCC rules trump Verizon’s TOS. This is what we’ve been arguing since the beginning.

          • A.Gomez

            GigaOM says the ruling doesn’t apply to unlimited plans. So, right now and in the past, FCC rules == Verizon’s TOS when it comes to unlimited plans.

        • Champion1229

          How is it unethical and immoral? We pay $30 per month for UNLIMITED data, why should Verizon care HOW we use our unlimited data. Verizon is starting to use bad business tatics that are going to cost them lots of customers. $30 upgrade fees, no unlimited data, delayed updates, and bad customer service are no ways to show your “Loyal” customers that you actually care about them.

        • tomn1ce

          you’re trying to say that its ethical for you to pay for a service and then have to pay again to use that same service as you please.

        • Michael McCormick

          The courts have already ruled on the issue of routing based on the Cable companies and phone companies who tried to charge for customer equipment. They stated that a consumer has the right to route the data anywhere they wish without paying more for that ability when using their own equipment. The phone I purchased is mine.. It has the capability to tether inherently as a router. I utilize software that does not belong to Verizon. I pay for my data connection and therefore they have no say in how or where I route that data once it reaches my phone. I am being neither immoral or unethical when I do NOT pay Verizon for something they do not own. Therefore I am being practical. If I were to use their software ( which they try to bake into the OS of the phone I OWN) then I would pay them for it. Since I choose to use others I do not Pay them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=674902817 Zach Davis

      It looks like Verizon could still charge people that are on the Unlimited plan, but it can’t charge people on the tiered plan. Here’s an excerpt from the GigaOM page.

      “The FCC also is saying that Verizon cannot charge customers on tiered data plans the $20 a month tethering fee, but it can charge it for those customers who are on an unlimited data plan. However, Verizon will not actually have a way to determine if customers are using one of these apps, so presumably any Android customer can download one of those apps and tether to their heart’s content.”

      • hector

        How are the unlimited plans different?

      • Mark

        Isn’t that more GigaOM’s interpretation?The press release doesn’t really say that. Of course, I’m not really familiar with the C block rules and maybe Verizon’s high data usage argument is valid for unlimited plans.

    • RoadsterHD1

      Get FoxFi and enjoy

      • http://profiles.google.com/adamtruelove Adam Truelove

        Or any ROM with tethering baked in

      • wachutlknboutwillis

        Thank you!!! So easy!!!!

      • Champion1229

        I’m actually going to be doing a review of Foxfi later tonight, Check it out at Advancedapps.blogspot.com

        • Champion1229

          Review is up including links to FoxF on the Play Store! Check it out at AdvancedApps.blogspot.com!

        • Bionic

          NoI one cares

          • Champion1229

            If no one cares then why did I get over 200 people checking out the site after I posted this?

      • jp

        I agree…FoxFi is awesome!! I was using Tether.com and found FoxFi…way better!!!

    • noc007

      This does not apply to the Unlimited plan. This only applies to those that pay for an allotment of data.

      • jucide

        I pay for an allotment of data. I pay $30 a month for an UNLIMITED allotment of data.

        • noc007

          Don’t shoot the messenger. ;) I agree with you. I pay for an Unlimited I expect not to be hassled with how I use it. I didn’t sign up for UMlimited.

  • George264

    I wish they gave that money to us. ESPECIALLY THE REZOUND GUYS, FOR SCREWING US, AND FAKE PROMISES. You assholes.

    • Mike

      U mad bro?

      • George264

        I am mad. You would be too, if you had the Rezound.

    • imns

      At least you guys will get SOMETHING..how about us Droid 3 owners?

      • Lambo_21

        fair point

    • Lambo_21

      Bionic owners.

      • George264

        You were not “promised” ICS before it launched.

        • Lambo_21

          Yes the Bionic was ICS upgradeable on all their promo pieces. Oh and don’t think Rezound owners have gotten shafted, compared to the Bionic they haven’t.

    • Champion1229

      Already filed my complaint to the FCC and to the BBB for false advertising!

  • Mack

    Anyone remember those credit card commercials with “Peggy”? “HAPPY TIME” :)

    http://www.tubechop.com/watch/455389

  • http://www.facebook.com/Abandolon Anthony Bandolon

    I wonder what this will mean for their practice of Throttling though. Will they still be able to do that? It seems (logically.. and we all know the Fed Gov’t is so logical… -.-) that they wouldn’t be allowed to throttle the users either….. Just a thought!

  • Rich R.

    is this only for 4G and not for 3G which is why they don’t have to pay back those that paid for their hotspots over the years?

  • Hunter

    $1.25 million? Pocket change compared to what charging for tethering probably made them…

    • Droidzilla

      This. The punishment certainly does not fit the crime. They should be forced to repay all of their customers who paid for tethering plans.

    • Champion1229

      You realize that the 1.25 million will be paid with all the money they made from charging for tethering, in the end Verizon will end up with a profit on the whole thing which just encourages them that bad business tactics pay off in the end for them.

    • cphilano

      I think this has been mentioned, but this does set up grounds for a class action suit that will be settled for far less than they made charging customers an illegal fee…lmao. Amazing how minuscule government regulation actually is, but there are so many people backing in the argument by politicians and the rich that we have too much government regulation and need to scale back.

  • James_C_L

    wow.. we win for once.