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