Verizon Wireless to Pay $1.25 Million Fine for Blocking Tethering Apps
Verizon Wireless will be paying $1.25 Million to the FTC for blocking certain tethering applications after an investigation. Along with the fine, Verizon can no longer block tethering apps from mobile app stores. Verizon was under investigation for violating the FCC's "C Block rules," which allows customers to use the devices and applications they own to their choosing.
Washington, D.C. Today the FCC's Enforcement Bureau released a $1.25 million consent decree with Verizon Wireless that resolves an investigation into whether the company had fully complied with the FCC's "C Block rules," requiring licensees of C Block spectrum to allow customers to freely use the devices and applications of their choosing.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said "Today's action demonstrates that compliance with FCC obligations is not optional. The open device and application obligations were core conditions when Verizon purchased the C-block spectrum. The massive innovation and investment fueled by the Internet have been driven by consumer choice in both devices and applications. The steps taken today will not only protect consumer choice, but defend certainty for innovators to continue to deliver new services and apps without fear of being blocked."
Verizon Wireless offers customers its 4G LTE service on C Block spectrum. Verizon Wireless bid at auction to acquire that spectrum, understanding that it was accompanied by open device and application obligations. Specifically, licensees offering service on C Block spectrum "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," subject to narrow exceptions.
P. Michele Ellison, Enforcement Bureau Chief, said "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 Bureau launched an investigation after reports suggested that Verizon Wireless had successfully requested that a major application store operator block Verizon's customers from accessing tethering applications from its online market. ("Tethering" is using a wireless phone as a modem to obtain Internet access for another device, such as a laptop computer or tablet.)
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