Verizon Wireless 'Settles' With FCC For Blocking Tethering Apps It Was Moving Away From Blocking Anyway

from the sleight-of-hand dept

You may recall that Verizon Wireless bought the famed C-block of 700 MHz spectrum at auction back in 2008, which had an openness requirement. At the time, people wondered if Verizon Wireless would actually live up to the openness requirements, with some worrying that there were significant loopholes. In fact, ever since then, people have raised questions about whether Verizon Wireless was even paying the most basic lip service to those open requirements.

The FCC has now given Verizon Wireless a slap on the wrist, for blocking various tethering apps from the Android Market for Android-based Verizon Wireless phones. The company has agreed to pay $1.25 million and to no longer block those apps. Of course, as Karl Bode has noted, this probably isn't that big a deal to Verizon Wireless, since it had already been moving away from blocking such apps as it moved to its new "shared data plans." Bode wonders if this settlement may have been more for show as it gears up to approve an anti-competitive plan that Verizon is seeking to drive its DSL users to competing cable platforms:
In other words, the FCC took action and finally enforced 2008 rules when they knew Verizon was already changing their ways -- without FCC involvement. Meanwhile, the FCC is rumored to be ready to sign off on Verizon's marketing relationship with the cable industry, despite the serious anti-competitive and coverage issues that deal raises. This tethering ruling could be a way to pretend to appear "pro consumery" before approving the Verizon cable deal.
I'm not sure the FCC is going that far, but perhaps that's part of the problem. The FCC never seems to want to go very far at all, always seeking to not offend anyone, with the end result being that the telcos almost always get their way in the long run.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    icon
    umb231 (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:41pm

    ... that's great and all... but they're still apparently blocking access to Google Wallet because of that Isis thing they were thinking about maybe coming out with eventually to compete. Yes, there are "work around"s to get Wallet on there but the same could be said for the tethering apps. And that's not even taking into account how Verizon is dragging it's heels on approving updates to android phones so that they come out 6ish months after AT&T and T-Mobile get them, like with the Galaxy Nexus 4.0.4 update (despite Verizon having it "exclusively" in the US for a bit)

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 10:25pm

    Telco Sleaze

    Oh noes! There is telco sleaze! Say it isn't so! Our illusions are shattered. How can it be that these large, socially prominent companies are not adhering to the highest standards of behaviour? Could it have anything to do with them being run by corporate sociopaths?

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Androgynous Cowherd, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 10:53pm

    Dump Pipes

    Verizon, and all you other telcos AND cablecos, you still don't get it, do you?

    You are dumb pipes. Your job is to schlep bits and bytes for your customers. Your job begins and ends with schlepping bits and bytes for your customers.

    What devices your customers plug into the pipes, what apps they run on their devices, and what's encoded in those bits and bytes are all none of your business. How many bits and bytes and where they're going is the full extent of your business.

    The sooner you figure that out, the happier we'll all be.

     

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  4. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Rais Azad, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 12:25am

    External Charger

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 2:21am

    'The FCC never seems to want to go very far at all, always seeking to not offend anyone'

    that only relates to the industry. they never worry about how far they go, how much harm is done to the consumer or much they are offended!

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 3:52am

    Re: Telco Sleaze

    Oh noes! There is politico sleaze! Say it isn't so! Our illusions are shattered. How can it be that these large, socially prominent politicians are not adhering to the highest standards of behaviour? Could it have anything to do with them being run by partisan sociopaths?

    -Fixed it for you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 4:15am

    "The FCC never seems to want to go very far at all"

    They have already gone too far by taking the public's inherit right to broadcast on, record, modify, and redistribute whatever gets broadcasted on various spectra away from the public and handing exclusive privileges over to solely self interested entities that abuse their govt established monopoly power to advance their selfish agenda.

    The FCC, like the FDA and most other government agencies, is primarily intended to defend corporate interests at public expense. and that's what it does.

     

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  8.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 6:16am

    Tasting

    (I've posted this before, but this article seemed like a good time to repost.)



    I have an interesting situation. My water utility sells me metered water for washing dishes, watering the lawn, showering, and other limited purposes.

    The utility offers a Tasting plan for an additional monthly charge. Under this plan, I am allowed to use the water also for cooking and drinking. (Even though my water use is metered, and each gallon of water for cooking and drinking is delivered by the same pipes!)

    Dear customer: our records indicate that you have been using water for cooking and/or drinking. Please upgrade your water rate plan to our convenient Tasting plan that allows for this usage. If you continue to use water for cooking and drinking, you will be signed up for the Tasting plan automatically.

    I think the Tasting plan is just a fee that they made up. It isn't a service they provide. They just want more money from me. I've got a workaround of using a container to obtain water from another room for the purposes of cooking and drinking.

    Some people shout: Theft of service!
    But what service? They're already delivering water to me, and metering it, and I'm paying for it, and its delivered by the same pipes!

    Some people shout: but you signed an agreement and using the water for cooking and drinking is a breach of that agreement!
    Ask a lawyer about the term "unconscionable contract".
    Nobody in their right mind would agree to this if they had any actual choice in the matter. Just because they have the power and can force you into paying this ridiculous fee or doing without doesn't make it right.

    I say that this Tasting "service" is no service at all, it's just a fee for delivering nothing at all extra to me. It's a case of the utility wanting something for nothing. Yet people seem to think it is somehow wrong to use the water I'm paying for for drinking or cooking unless I sign up for the more expensive Tasting plan.

    In order to add legitimacy to their Tasting plan, the water company says that the Tasting plan is actually delivering something: it includes an additional 2 Gigabytes of water per month, giving you 4 total Gigabytes of water.

    But what if I only need 2 Gigabytes of water and therefore my existing monthly 2 Gigabyte plan is plenty? The water company already charges $10 per extra Gigabyte of water I use over the limit. So if I used excess water, it's not like they wouldn't get paid.

    Furthermore, once I sign up for the Tasting plan, they don't make any distinction between water used for drinking/cooking and water used for other purposes. I could use 3/4 of it for tasting, and 1/4 for bathing/dishwashing. Or any other split. Or all of it purely for tasting. So then if I paid for Tasting and used only 2 Gigabytes of water, which I already had paid for, then why did I need the Tasting plan?

    I seem to be very confused about stealing water for tasting. Someone please set me straight.



    -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

    Quick Tethering Quiz.

    Which costs more and which puts more stress on their network:
    1. A 1 kilobyte packet transmitted between my phone and the tower.
    2. A 1 kilobyte packet transmitted between my phone and the tower.
    (Please note in the case of (1) the packet was from my mobile browser, and in the case of (2) the packet was from my laptop browser.)

    If I have a 2 GB monthly data limit, which of the following activities will use more data on the network:
    1. Downloading 2 GB of data to my mobile phone?
    2. Downloading 2 GB of data to my laptop?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Mike42 (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 6:24am

    Re: Re: Telco Sleaze

    No, you didn't. Shithead.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Brent (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 6:38am

    i am a bit disappointed by this article (i'm hoping there is an earlier one i haven't seen yet that actually goes into the details of the ruling). I've been searching for a little bit now and i can't find those "C Block" rules that Verizon violated by blocking tethering apps. What no one seems to think is a big deal is that this settlement only applies to tiered data plans. I just want to know how C Block rules could have put a restriction on tiered data, but not unlimited data plans, back in 2008 when no one offered tiered data plans... Mike, any help on this?

     

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  11.  
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    Machin Shin (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 8:41am

    Re: Tasting

    Right along with that is the stupidity of how limiting they are being on things while increasing speeds. Verizon is now bragging about 4G and how great it is but not offering a usable plan.

    It is kind of like your house having a main water line coming in that is a 2inch pipe. It has been doing ok but you would not mind having better hookup, so next thing you know the water company tells you they are installing a 10inch pipe direct to your house. Your going to have amazing water pressure BUT your limited to 1 gallon a month with your basic plan or you can upgrade to the max plan of 10 gallons. Oh, and you will get charged heavily for going over.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    Mike42 (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 9:24am

    Re: Re: Tasting

    Please remember that when the telcos were bitching about tethering, they mainly offered unlimited usage. Now that they have metered usage, they will be all for you tethering your phone. The faster you pass your cap, they more money they make.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), Aug 3rd, 2012 @ 10:27am

    Techdirt Had This One Year Ago

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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