Verizon Nailed with a $1.25 Million Fine by FCC; Must Stop Blocking Tethering Apps

dgstorm

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Here is some pretty exciting news! The U.S. FCC has recently finished an investigation of Verizon in relation to them blocking third party tethering apps. The FCC ruled that Verizon violated the rules governing the C Block of LTE spectrum by preventing customers from using any application of their choice. Big Red must now pony up a $1.25 Million dollar fine to the FCC to pay for the investigation, and now they can no longer block third party apps from tethering on their network. You will now be able to use third party apps to bypass Verizon's $20 per month extra charge to use their official tethering service, as long as you are on a "usage-based plan." This means that folks still on grandfathered unlimited plans can still have their tethering blocked by Verizon if they choose/are able to do so. Here's the full press release below,

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.

-FCC-
For news and information about the FCC, please visit: Home | FCC.gov
 

FoxKat

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Well, there you have it!

Bravo to the FCC! But note the restriction to Unlimited plans...don't misunderstand, they want their money for tethering and will get it one way or another.
 

jstafford1

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Well they did away with the tethering charge on their new plans anyways...so nothing really changed.

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Sydman

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I would say hooray, but that just means they will just come up with a new fee or price hike to charge us so they can cover the loss.
 

thegreatone3

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So I've been using FoxFi. Were there better alternatives that were banned by Verizon that will get a second life now?
 

LoudRam

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So I've been using FoxFi. Were there better alternatives that were banned by Verizon that will get a second life now?

I wonder? Foxfi hasn't worked for my phone even though they said that it would work with HTC phones running ICS. Their example in the Play Store was the One X. Maybe there is or will be another app I can try.:icon_ lala:
 

tattedupboy

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Well, I'm on a grandfathered unlimited plan and my phone is rooted, so I just use the built in tethering apps on the ROMs I flash. Nevertheless, it's still nice to have this option.
 

Narsil

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So, to use the most overused cliched argumentative example on Droid Forums, I suppose this means we can eat at the entire buffet for one price. :biggrin:
 

Tonik

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I had this thought in my original thread on this story and wanted to toss it here for the masses. I am happy about this ruling for a reason unrelated to tethering.

From the FCC's posted ruling above: "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...."

It says DEVICES. That might be an opening to get some action on bootloaders. There were a lot of FCC complaints about that this winter by VZW customers about the same time as the whole #OPMOSH effort. Not trying to hijack the thread, but I think it is related.

http://www.fcc.gov/document/verizon-wireless-pay-125-million-settle-investigation
 

jerkwad

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I had this thought in my original thread on this story and wanted to toss it here for the masses. I am happy about this ruling for a reason unrelated to tethering.

From the FCC's posted ruling above: "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...."

It says DEVICES. That might be an opening to get some action on bootloaders. There were a lot of FCC complaints about that this winter by VZW customers about the same time as the whole #OPMOSH effort. Not trying to hijack the thread, but I think it is related.

Good point - but I would extend that even further to say that, possibly, this could be used as a means to forcing telcos to accept any compatible phone on their network? Thus, I could grab a phone found in other markets that run on that spectrum and use it on their network...I HOPE this opens up that can of worms, because it would be one step closer to having a REAL choice in what phone(s) we use and maybe even get off this subsidized BS we have going on here in the US.
 

wseyller

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I just wonder now if this puts unlimited data tethers under the microscope. Verizon has never dished out consequences for unauthorized tethering. I could see this change since verizon is going to lose some tethering income. If caught tethering i could see them forcing those on unlimited data to a shared/capped plan.

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TisMyDroid

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I had this thought in my original thread on this story and wanted to toss it here for the masses. I am happy about this ruling for a reason unrelated to tethering.

From the FCC's posted ruling above: "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...."

It says DEVICES. That might be an opening to get some action on bootloaders. There were a lot of FCC complaints about that this winter by VZW customers about the same time as the whole #OPMOSH effort. Not trying to hijack the thread, but I think it is related.

I was also thinking the same thing... the requirement that verizon "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," would say to me that verizon's 4g phones should have unlocked bootloaders so that I am not denied, limited or restricted in using my device as I choose. Or am I understanding this wrong.

Anyway, one small victory for us... sort of because they already have their shared plans in place that address this satisfactorly and us with unlimited plans are still restricted. And like, Sydman pointed out, Verizon will probably find some other way to soak us. But I am thinking that Verizon knew this was coming so they came up with the shared data plans and that is how they're soaking us.
 
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Tonik

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Anyway, one small victory for us... sort of because they already have their shared plans in place that address this satisfactorly and us with unlimited plans are still restricted.

I would go out on a limb and say they did that knowing they were about to lose this FCC case.
 

skennelly

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Of course they don't give a $**t about limited data plans tethering. They stand to make a lot of money from them going over their data allowance. Rest assured though, that they will be cracking down on those with unlimited data. This will be their excuse to eliminate the unlimited plans.
 

nateccnn

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Does this aply to those of us who did everything legit from the get go? Grandfathered unlimited data and I subscribe to unlimited tethering? I pay up the *** but they can't take anything away from me now. LOL

Nate
 
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