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FCC Says Verizon Can't Block Tethering Apps

By - Source: via Engadget | B 32 comments

Verizon can't block tethering apps for 4G LTE customers.

The FCC has ruled that Verizon is not allowed to block users from using tethering applications to create their own 4G WiFi hotspots. The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday announced that Verizon had settled with the regulator over an investigation into whether the carrier was complying with FCC rules and allowing customers to 'freely use the devices and applications of their choosing.'

Verizon had previously been preventing users from using applications to set up their own 4G LTE hotspots. However, because the carrier's 4G LTE service is on the C Block spectrum, the company is forced to abide by the C Block rules. Specifically, FCC rules for 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." According to this rule, blocking customers from downloading tethering applications isn't allowed.

"Today's action demonstrates that compliance with FCC obligations is not optional," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. "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."

Prior to the settlement with the FCC, Verizon was blocking customers from using tethering apps and instead required those that wanted to tether pay $20 extra for the company's 'Mobile Broadband Connect' service. The carrier was afraid that people would use tethering apps to get out of paying that charge.

Verizon Wireless has agreed to pay $1.25 million to put an end to the investigation. The company has also committed to notifying the Google Play Store that it no longer objects to the availability of the tethering applications to C-Block network customers.

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  • 23 Hide
    Inferno1217 , August 1, 2012 8:03 PM
    FCC FTW
  • 10 Hide
    endif , August 1, 2012 8:08 PM
    Thank god. This has been the only thing that I have absolutely despised about Verizon's network. Now I can use SVTP in peace.
  • 10 Hide
    endif , August 1, 2012 8:30 PM
    thebigt42I am assuming this also applies to "ALL" Verizon devices not just android based...As in IOS based devices.


    Don't hold your breath for too long. This ruling stop's carriers from blocking "Third party apps" from unlocking tethering capabilities. Apple does not allow third party apps to unlock tethering capability on your iDevices.
Other Comments
  • 23 Hide
    Inferno1217 , August 1, 2012 8:03 PM
    FCC FTW
  • 10 Hide
    endif , August 1, 2012 8:08 PM
    Thank god. This has been the only thing that I have absolutely despised about Verizon's network. Now I can use SVTP in peace.
  • -2 Hide
    thebigt42 , August 1, 2012 8:25 PM
    I am assuming this also applies to "ALL" Verizon devices not just android based...As in IOS based devices.
  • 6 Hide
    stevenrix , August 1, 2012 8:27 PM
    and debuting with AT&T soon enough hopefully.
  • 10 Hide
    endif , August 1, 2012 8:30 PM
    thebigt42I am assuming this also applies to "ALL" Verizon devices not just android based...As in IOS based devices.


    Don't hold your breath for too long. This ruling stop's carriers from blocking "Third party apps" from unlocking tethering capabilities. Apple does not allow third party apps to unlock tethering capability on your iDevices.
  • -4 Hide
    thebigt42 , August 1, 2012 8:32 PM
    endifDon't hold your breath for too long. This ruling stop's carriers from blocking "Third party apps" from unlocking tethering capabilities. Apple does not allow third party apps to unlock tethering capability on your iDevices.

    What Apple does not know wont hurt them ;P I was more concerned with the carrier my device is connected to
  • 8 Hide
    dirgle , August 1, 2012 8:40 PM
    thebigt42I am assuming this also applies to "ALL" Verizon devices not just android based...As in IOS based devices.

    Not unless there is a 4g iOS device on the market we don't know about. This ruling is only for the 4G spectrum. Verizon can still do as it pleases with 3g and under.
  • 3 Hide
    g00fysmiley , August 1, 2012 9:07 PM
    government regulation at work helping protect consumers as it should be
  • 3 Hide
    teh_chem , August 1, 2012 9:14 PM
    I know virtually no one uses Virgin Mobile, but many users (myself included) have speculated that they have implemented something in their network where if you enable wifi hot-spot capability on your device (previously allowed, but now only allowed with an added paid feature and only on two of their supported handsets), your phone would magically lose all ability to connect to VM's data network, and you had to do a factory reset to get data connectivity back.

    Note--this was on vanilla handsets, not rooted/flashed. So while providers cannot block the use of 3rd party apps, no doubt they can still play games should they suspect you are tethering against some contractual agreement.

    What i don't understand is so long as I'm using the allotted amount of data in a month as allowed by my contract, what does it matter to my provider how I'm using it? i.e., instead of writing emails on my crappy phone interface, why not open up a wifi hotspot and write emails on my (slightly better) tablet interface? Or my laptop? The data impact is essentially zero (okay, not exactly, but to the extent of practicality, it's zero). So who cares how I use the data? Oh, that's right, because providers are also trying to get you to buy their hotspot packages, external from your phone contracts...
  • 6 Hide
    syrious1 , August 1, 2012 9:19 PM
    I pay for the data, I should be able to use it in ANY device/way possible.

    Hopefully the FCC will take care of AT&T as well.... $50 data connect, ppsshh for WHAT?!
  • 5 Hide
    bourgeoisdude , August 1, 2012 9:26 PM
    I understand that in a limited spectrum crunch, perhaps an argument can be made that there needs to be a way to charge proportionally based on how much bandwidth someone is using. Not that I fully agree with Verizon's pricing plans, but an argument can be made. What I have never understood why Verizon thinks they can charge more when a laptop uses the SAME EXACT AMOUNT OF DATA as the phone does.
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , August 1, 2012 9:38 PM
    Woohoo! Government of, by and for the people! Thank you to the FCC lawyers and aids who ensured that subscribers on the C-band are entitled to run the programs/apps of their choice. The language was written a long time ago and showed tremendous foresight in allowing the people to use the public good of spectrum in a way that empowers the users.
    Granted, Verizon and others provide the technology to use this public good... They probably suspected this was coming though, since they stopped providing unlimited data a long time ago. With data caps and their new data based plans the structure is already in place to make it irrelevant how you use the bandwidth. It's all metered. Selfishly, I hope they need to honor their old plans that provide unlimited data.

    A lot of people will be following in my footsteps and dialing 611 to terminate their mobile hotspot. I hope this also puts an end to having to pay for WiFi at nice hotels and airports. The next thing I would like is to be able to use our phones while we fly... I lump airlines in the same category as phone companies so I'm not waiting.
  • 1 Hide
    g00fysmiley , August 1, 2012 9:42 PM
    bourgeoisdudeI understand that in a limited spectrum crunch, perhaps an argument can be made that there needs to be a way to charge proportionally based on how much bandwidth someone is using. Not that I fully agree with Verizon's pricing plans, but an argument can be made. What I have never understood why Verizon thinks they can charge more when a laptop uses the SAME EXACT AMOUNT OF DATA as the phone does.


    because they can, it was written into thier fcc bands htey could pretty much get away with anything they anted. 4g is going to obviously change that as it gave the fcc some teeth here's hopping they keep enforcing it.

    all the telecoms want to make as much money while reinvesting as little as possible into thier networks hence the limited data or paying across multiple platforms for full function of a device.. and they will fight very chance they can to make you pay even more money. more companies equals more competition... I for one am rediculously happy our g'ment said no to at&t buying t mobile. remember a while back when alltell got bought by verizon all telecoms upped prices... yea that would happen again
  • 1 Hide
    carnage9270 , August 1, 2012 9:53 PM
    Keep in mind also, this only applies to phones attached to a tiered data account. Those with unlimited data plans can still be charged for tethering. How Verizon would know this is beyond my limited knowledge of data usage statistics, but I'm sure they could potentially find out if they really wanted to.
  • 6 Hide
    beardguy , August 1, 2012 10:13 PM
    These cell carriers are total scum. They want to charge an arm an a leg for every service possible and squeeze every penny from their customers. Then if you ever run into trouble with your service or phone, you have to sit on hold for an eternity all to end up talking with someone from another country who can probably understand you about as much as you can understand them (not at all)

    Why should anyone have to pay an additional charge to tether their phone??? It's using the same data the phone would use!!

    I f-ing hate cell phone carriers.
  • 1 Hide
    carnage9270 , August 1, 2012 10:27 PM
    beardguyWhy should anyone have to pay an additional charge to tether their phone??? It's using the same data the phone would use!! I f-ing hate cell phone carriers.


    Their argument is that a computer uses significantly more data to display things. The content they display is in a full format (not mobile mode) and the uses become endless. (Online gaming etc).
  • 3 Hide
    teh_chem , August 1, 2012 11:03 PM
    carnage9270Their argument is that a computer uses significantly more data to display things. The content they display is in a full format (not mobile mode) and the uses become endless. (Online gaming etc).

    Sure, your computer connection uses more data than a phone connection (full webpages vs. "mobile" webpages). But the problem is that companies charge users JUST FOR THE CAPABILITY to tether--data usage is separate from that. THAT'S the important issue. If I have a data allotment from my provider and I never exceed my data allotment from my provider, what difference does it make how I use it? Whether only on my phone, or if I wifi tether devices?
  • 2 Hide
    m_malyszko , August 1, 2012 11:04 PM
    And don"t forget about TMobile. They too have started doing this recently. I can't confirm this 100%, I heard from a friend about this.
  • 2 Hide
    festerovic , August 1, 2012 11:42 PM
    The want to charge for mobile hot spot or tethering since you could allow others that don't have data plans to get hooked up off your connection. Everyone in my car gets free wifi if I'm hotspotting.

    I guess I'm pwnd since I have a 3g phone and if I get a new phone I lose the unlimited...back to square one.
  • 1 Hide
    livebriand , August 2, 2012 12:12 AM
    Thank you FCC!!! Now if only they do this for all carriers... (not that I haven't been tethering without paying anyway... wink wink)
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