The FCC and Verizon settled out an ongoing dispute about Verizon's removal of tethering apps from the then-Android Market for devices operating on its network, stating that the "Block C" spectrum rules it agreed to when it purchased the frequency bands obligate it to provide its customers open access to software. Those rules, if you haven't seen them before, are essentially:

[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.

The scope of the FCC settlement (meaning Verizon decided it was no longer worth fighting) is quite narrow - Verizon must now allow customers unfettered access to tethering apps, and in return the FCC will end the investigation. But this is rather irrelevant, as Verizon made tethering free as part of its new Share Everything plans.

Customers on older unlimited plans must still pay the tethering fee, though Verizon will presumably no longer block tethering apps on the Play Store for those persons. The caveat likely being, of course, that if Verizon catches you tethering without a plan, they'll "help you" (force you to) switch to one of the new Share Everything plans.

The head of the FCC's enforcement arm, Michele Ellison, had this to say:

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 settlement also requires that Verizon set up a Block C compliance plan over the next 2 years to avoid future such snafus. A very small $1.25 million fine was tacked on as well, though for a company like Verizon, that really is pennies.

It's great to see that the FCC is taking a more aggressive stance with the admittedly very vaguely worded Block C access rules, and not copping out to "reasonable network management" as the FCC has tended to in the past. In fact, I was so certain the FCC would roll over on this that I wrote a piece a while back with a title that makes me look pretty silly, in hindsight.

While this particular settlement doesn't have any immediate broader implications, it'll no doubt keep Big Red on its toes in the future.

via Engadget

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • yarrellray

    Verizon is the WORST...Glad I kicked them to the curb. For 1 month I have been in heaven on Tmobile. Reception is great and Signal strength is to die for. No more crappy CDMA thank god..

  • http://twitter.com/whoisajimmy

    Okay, now let's all file complaints against locked bootloaders using the same line in the Block C guidelines..

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      I hate to be the dreamcrusher here, but that definitely won't work.

      The FCC looked at this from a content filtering perspective, not an "open software" perspective. In their view, Verizon was telling customers that certain software content was not available to them because it actively chose to block that specific type of content. The FCC said "No, you can't just arbitrarily block some content without a legitimate reason."

      Bootloader locking/encryption is a security measure. How Verizon chooses to secure its network is something the FCC just won't touch, it's the very definition of "reasonable network management."

      • http://twitter.com/whoisajimmy

        They're not securing their network or managing their network by locking bootloaders though, lol. They have 4G hotspots that open their network up to any traffic - be it approved or unapproved - meaning devices specifically engineered to wreak havoc on their networks could easily connect... "reasonable network management" is honestly not a legitimate excuse.

        Not to mention that their response email to FCC complaints says that they're denying them the ability to "Change the phone or otherwise modify its software" in order to keep their "established [...] standard of excellence in customer experience."

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

          I agree that what you're saying is totally, 100% logical and I wish all the carriers could see it that way. I just think the way they're using the rule, bootloaders are very unlikely to be seen as falling under the openness requirements.

          • http://twitter.com/whoisajimmy

            Well, hopefully the FCC will see it my way with the complaint I just filed, lol.

      • http://twitter.com/ToysSamurai Toys Samurai

        If FCC interprets the rule this way, wouldn't Verizon be required to allow devices to be used on their network w/o "pre-approval"? Therefore, if Google makes a LTE phone that is compatible with Verizon's network, Verizon could not block the phone from being used on its network? After all, the rule says:

        [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.

        • Freak4Dell

          I really wish the FCC would just mandate that for all carriers. This carrier-branded, exclusive mumbo jumbo is really getting old.

  • Derek Traini

    Could we see Google Wallet soon?

    • John

      Doubt it. Until they find a way to monetize it, I'm sure they'll continue to stupidly block it.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      No. How Verizon chooses to secure the hardware (the secure NFC element) of devices on its networks is well-within the "reasonable network management" umbrella. You might get it for the Galaxy Nexus under this interpretation of the rules, but not any other device. Even the Gnex would be a stretch - Verizon could argue it doesn't trust the security of Google's system.

  • Nick Fillion

    Does this mean those of us with custom ROMs that have the native tethering (re)enabled no longer have to worry about being penalized/fined/have our service terminated?

  • microchip01

    YES! Thank you Google!!

  • teletitty

    Who gets the 1.25 million?