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A complaint filed with the FCC by Free Press alleges that Verizon Wireless has breached a promise that it would not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of [its] customers to use the devices and applications of its choice."

June 7, 2011

2 Min Read
Verizon Wireless Accused of Violating FCC Rules over Tethering

By Josh Long

Verizon Wireless is facing accusations that it violated Federal Communications Commission rules by asking Google to remove tethering” applications from the Android Market that allow customers to use their mobile phones to connect various devices to the Internet.

In a complaint filed Monday with the FCC, Free Press alleges that Verizon Wireless has breached a promise that it would not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of [its] customers to use the devices and applications of its choice.”

Verizon agreed to the commitment under its purchase of spectrum over which the wireless provider has built a 4G LTE network, according to the complaint.

Removing the applications from the Android Market curtails, restrains, and interferes with the ability of subscribers to use the applications of their choice by making it more difficult to download and install those applications,” Free Press stated in the complaint.

Tethering is a term that describes using a broadband-enabled mobile phone as a way to connect another device, such as a laptop or tablet computer, to the Internet.

Free Press, a nonprofit organization, is asking the FCC to open an investigation into Verizons practices and potentially assess penalties against the nations largest wireless carrier.

If the Commissions openness rules are to have any meaning, the FCC must act quickly to investigate Verizons indiscriminate and arbitrary blocking of tethering applications,” Free Press stated in the complaint.

When reached for comment late Tuesday, a Verizon spokesperson could not immediately confirm or deny whether Verizon Wireless has asked Google to remove the tethering applications from Android Market. Another spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Google has reportedly told media outlets that it removed the apps at the explicit request of some mobile providers, including Verizon. And Free Press alleges that there is additional circumstantial evidence suggesting that Verizon and AT&T asked Google to block the tethering applications because, in part, customers with other wireless providers can still download the apps from Android Market.

Verizon Wireless is offering tethering for free on the HTC ThunderBolt smartphone in connection with its 4G LTE service, but the company will begin charging subscribers for the service on June 15, according to Free Press. Verizon Wireless charges about $20 for tethering on other phones, Free Press noted.

The complaint also alleges that Verizons conduct violates FCC rules that prohibit limitations on devices that consumers may choose to attach to a network. The FCCs order adopting conditions on the purchase of spectrum specifically the C Block of the Upper 700 MHz spectrum consistently characterizes its own openness requirements as successors” to principles that relate to a consumers right to attach non-harmful devices to the telephone network,” the complaint states.

Tethering software exists solely to help users easily attach additional devices, such as laptop computers, tablets, or digital cameras, to the network,” Free Press said in the complaint.

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