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FCC Complaint Filed Against Verizon's Tethering Ban

By - Source: Free Press | B 30 comments

The consumer group Free Press has filed a complaint with the FCC saying that Verizon is violating open access provisions by banning third-party tethering apps.

Unbeknownst to this paying subscriber until now, Verizon has silently asked Google to remove third-party apps from the Android Market that allows users to unofficially tether their Android smartphone without subscribing to Verizon's Mobile Broadband Connect plan.

The news arrives after Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" users of the Wireless Tether app began pulling up a Verizon "roadblock" telling the user to subscriber to its $20 for 2 GB monthly plan, preventing additional internet access. Android 2.2 "Froyo" users also discovered that native tethering was disabled when the update rolled out to Verizon-based Android phones last year.

Now additional third-party tethering apps have reportedly fallen off the Android Market, and the consumer group called Free Press has filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission claiming that the Big Red wireless carrier is violating some of the open access provisions it agreed to when it purchased the 700 MHz spectrum back in 2008.

"Recent news reports suggest that at Verizon’s behest, Google has disabled Verizon customers’ access to third-party tethering applications in Google’s Android Market application store," the complaint reads. "Plainly, Verizon’s actions in disabling access to the tethering applications limit and restrict the ability of users to access those applications. Because users download tethering applications for the express purpose of connecting additional devices to their data connections, Verizon’s actions also limit and restrict the ability of users to connect the devices of their choice to the LTE network. The Commission should immediately investigate this apparent violation of its rules and assess all appropriate penalties."

"Free Press argues that by preventing customers from downloading tethering applications from the Android Market, Verizon is restricting not only the applications available to them, but also limits use of tethered devices such as laptop or tablet computers," the group said in a statement.

Obviously the complaint is addressing restrictions imposed on the LTE network – specifically the C Block of the upper 700 MHz block where Verizon's LTE network resides – saying that Verizon is not allowed to "deny, limit, or restrict the ability of their customers to use the applications or devices of the customers’ choosing." Could this lead to 3G tethering apps returning to the Android Market? Probably not, but third-party developers are already offering solutions around the Google-Verizon loophole.

GigaOM points out that the open access rules Verizon is reportedly violating were put into place after Google threatened to purchase the spectrum in order to force carriers into opening up their networks. Since then, Google has seemingly backed down from its open access stance by disabling native tethering in Android 2.2 for Verizon.

Still, is Verizon really pushing Google to remove tethering apps from the Android Market? PdaNet developer June Fabrics reveals the truth behind the claims. "Beginning April 2011 PdaNet has been delisted from the Android Market by some carriers since this very popular app - with over 3 million installs and 4.5+ ratings - shares your phone's Internet connection with your computer and does not require a tether fee or rooting your phone," the company says here. "This leaves a lot of our users stuck with an outdated version and no longer receive update notifications from Android Market."

The Free Press complaint is asking the FCC to investigate Verizon's "flagrant disregard" for the conditions of its C-Block licenses.

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  • 3 Hide
    Onus , June 6, 2011 10:38 PM
    Break the deal, face the wheel...
  • 4 Hide
    feeddagoat , June 6, 2011 10:58 PM
    I'm just after a huge fight with O2 and carphonewarehouse over refusing to honour a 14day cooling off period on a new contract. This sorta bull with the networks needs to be stopped. At the moment you either you like it or...well tough, you have no other choice.
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , June 6, 2011 11:35 PM
    This and additional breaches to come are the exact reason why AT&T should NOT be allowed to complete the purchase of T-Mobile. It's always about profits. These companies will seek profit first above any concern for users.
  • Display all 30 comments.
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , June 6, 2011 11:37 PM
    Verizon's actions seem tantamount to the thought that an ISP could contact Fry's and ask to pull all their wifi routers off their shelves.
  • 8 Hide
    tntom , June 6, 2011 11:46 PM
    "Telecoms" The new "crack cocaine dealers". They know they have us hooked and now take sadistic pleasure in making us contort to their demands in exchange for us to continue getting our fixes.
  • 2 Hide
    phatboe , June 7, 2011 12:02 AM
    FIGHT THE POWER! I stand behind the Free Press ' movement to stop the practice of charging customers for tethering.
  • 0 Hide
    dangolo , June 7, 2011 12:09 AM
  • 5 Hide
    Humans think , June 7, 2011 12:57 AM
    How would u like if u paid a tethering fee if u use more than one computers in your house or you connect your smartphone to your wireless. This is what these guys are doing...

    Ohhhh I look that your girlfriend accessed your wireless, this is not permitted. Consider buying tether plus for $30 per month.

    As I understand it the amount of data u download via tethering are subtracted from your MB plan so it is not like u didn't pay for that.
  • 6 Hide
    Anonymous , June 7, 2011 12:59 AM
    Install CM7 everybody, it gets rid of all the verizon bloatware and comes with tethering built in. Plus the current version is android 2.3.4 In my opinion verizon can cap data but it shouldn't matter how you are using your allowed data.
  • 0 Hide
    jalek , June 7, 2011 1:03 AM
    If the telecoms are the dealers, it's the politicians who are the suppliers. Both are out to screw the consumer in any way possible. People sign contracts with one and elect the other, so we're just back to people being idiots.
  • 2 Hide
    Onus , June 7, 2011 1:07 AM
    @otacon72, in this case it may be Verizon who is not adhering to a deal they made regarding access when they obtained their frequencies. It looks like any ruling will be based on that agreement, not on the customer agreement, which may therefor be illegal.
  • 3 Hide
    Kamab , June 7, 2011 1:08 AM
    otacon72Although I never usually side with "the man" why shouldn't Verizon block tethering if the user isn't paying for it? Reminds me of all those online poker players whining they lost their money. Well you're doing something you know is illegal soooo sucks to be you.

    Why should you have to pay for tethering. Frankly, uploads and downloads from my phone should be able to be used for whatever I want, seeing as I own the phone. ISP's and phone carriers charge ridiculous prices for a service they hardly maintain/upgrade. There is virtually no incurred fee to them per additional subscriber, so at least let us use our data for what we want, thanks.
  • 2 Hide
    chick0n , June 7, 2011 3:18 AM
    Why aren't they suing AT&T ?
  • 7 Hide
    livebriand , June 7, 2011 4:18 AM
    Oh come on, it's (for instance) 2GB of data usage. Who cares if I used it all via my smartphone? Who cares if I used it all via my tethered laptop? Who cares if I used 500MB via my smartphone and 1.5GB via my laptop? Who cares if I used 1.25GB via my smartphone and 0.75GB via my laptop? It's still 2GB.
  • 0 Hide
    Blessedman , June 7, 2011 4:36 AM
    Fuck the world! We all need to just cancel our plans and tell verizon to sue us for any early termination. With no fee's coming in and all their money going out to lawyers to sue everyone, well that is the end of Verizon. I bet if all Verizon users did this and AT&T just started to feel a pinch of it, they would change their tune so quickly. It's a shame that so many people just don't care about these things...
  • 3 Hide
    alidan , June 7, 2011 5:02 AM
    back when the phone companies gave TRUE unlimited data plans, people connected the phone to computer, because it was faster than dial up and high speed wasn't available everywhere yet.

    back than, phone companies had a right to complain about it, because it was NEVER intended to be used like that. while most people used less than 10-20mb a month, some used gigs.

    now that all of them, for the most part, implemented data caps tethering issues should not exist in any way shape or form.
  • -1 Hide
    itchyisvegeta , June 7, 2011 5:44 AM
    If it is in the contact you sign, they should have the right to ban tethering software on your phone. If not, the alternative is capping their unlimited data plans. If that happens, I will be pissed beyond pissed.
  • 2 Hide
    palladin9479 , June 7, 2011 6:04 AM
    And yet people are pushing for IPV6 and that ISP's will somehow be "nice" and let you have your entire 64-bit network and connect all the stuff that you have now?

    This just proves that you can never ~EVER~ trust ISP's or any other legalized semi-monopoly to do things legit. They'll find any and all ways to turn you into a revenue stream.
  • 0 Hide
    Graham_71 , June 7, 2011 10:35 AM
    feeddagoatI'm just after a huge fight with O2 and carphonewarehouse over refusing to honour a 14day cooling off period on a new contract. This sorta bull with the networks needs to be stopped. At the moment you either you like it or...well tough, you have no other choice.

    It's the carphonewarehouse who are the real crooks, they don't honour their 'cash back' offers either. I had a phone from their site 'onestopphoneshop' offering 12 month's free line rental in the form of cashback. On the site once you've purchased there's an online calculator telling you when to send in your claim for each instalment of the cash back, in my case the calculator was missing the date of the first claim. Their T&C's (hidden in a email attachment) state that if you fail to make a claim within the given time frame the claim will be invalid and the account closed (so no further claims will be accepted either)

    carphonewarehouse = a bunch of crooks
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