Feature Article

August 01, 2012

FCC Slaps Verizon with a Fine for Blocking Tethering Apps

If you're a Verizon Wireless customer and you've tried “tethering,” a practice that involves using the Wi-Fi on a laptop or smartphone to connect other portable devices to the Internet, you may have found it difficult or downright impossible, or at least very, very expensive. You may have tried to get around the extra cost using tethering apps. You probably weren't successful, but things may look brighter in the future, thanks to the U.S. government.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decided to begin flexing its authority over some of the wireless spectrum it oversees. The agency is reporting that it will be accepting a $1.25 million settlement from Verizon Wireless to end an investigation into whether the company asked Google Inc. to withhold so-called “tethering” software for Internet sharing. During the course of the 10-month investigation, the FCC discovered that Verizon had asked Google to remove 11 applications from the Android marketplace that were being used to circumvent Verizon’s $20 tethering charge.

These tethering fees were becoming increasingly popular with wireless companies. It's not uncommon for applications stores, like the ones maintained by Apple and Google, to forge agreements with carriers that restrict apps that try to circumvent tethering fees. Verizon's LTE network, which went live in late 2010, uses a slice of the airwaves that carries special conditions — the carrier is not allowed to block any lawful applications from devices on the network, the Associated Press is reporting today.

Verizon is not admitting guilt in the case. The company is maintaining that it did not block customers from using third-party applications, and that it settled in order to “put behind us concerns related to an employee's communication with an app store operator about tethering applications,” said the company, which is the nation's largest wireless carrier.



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Edited by Brooke Neuman


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