Skip to main content

FCC Says Verizon Can't Block Tethering Apps

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.

Follow @JaneMcEntegart on Twitter.       

Contact Us for News Tips, Corrections and Feedback

  • Inferno1217
    FCC FTW
    Reply
  • endif
    Thank god. This has been the only thing that I have absolutely despised about Verizon's network. Now I can use SVTP in peace.
    Reply
  • thebigt42
    I am assuming this also applies to "ALL" Verizon devices not just android based...As in IOS based devices.
    Reply
  • stevenrix
    and debuting with AT&T soon enough hopefully.
    Reply
  • endif
    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.
    Reply
  • thebigt42
    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
    Reply
  • dirgle
    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.
    Reply
  • g00fysmiley
    government regulation at work helping protect consumers as it should be
    Reply
  • teh_chem
    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...
    Reply
  • syrious1
    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?!
    Reply