FCC Complaint Lodged Against Verizon for Violating LTE Agreement

By Erin Harrison June 07, 2011

A national consumer advocacy group filed a complaint this week with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) claiming that Verizon Wireless is in violation of federal rules by blocking consumer access to third-party tethering applications.

On June 6, the group Free Press filed a complaint with the FCC against Verizon Wireless for allegedly requesting that Google block tethering apps in the Android market.

Verizon has denied any wrongdoing, according to several media reports, but Free Press has singled out the carrier since it purchased spectrum in the 700 MHz band. Therefore, the group maintains Verizon must not “deny, limit, or restrict” the ability of customers to use apps or devices of their choosing.

According to the Free Press complaint, “most major wireless carriers, including Verizon Wireless, AT&T and TMobile, limit access to third-party tethering applications. If users wish tether their phones, they are forced to subscribe to the carriers’ own tethering service – at rates of up to $30 per month.”

Tethering allows a user to connect multiple devices – such as a laptop, digital camera, or GPS system – to the Internet via a mobile phone’s broadband service.

The issue first surfaced back in March, when Google told Fierce Wireless that it was making an app called “Wireless Tether” unavailable for download at the request of wireless carriers.

Blocking such apps violates the terms and conditions of Verizon’s FCC license for its LTE network, the 500,000-member Free Press alleges.

“Users pay through the nose for Verizon’s LTE service, and having done so, they should be able to use their connections as they see fit,” Free Press policy counsel Aparna Sridhar said in a statement to PC Magazine. “Instead, Verizon’s approach is to sell you broadband but then put up roadblocks to control your use of it.”

Verizon denied blocking the apps in a statement to PC Magazine.

“Google manages the apps available in its Android Market. Verizon Wireless does not block applications available to its customers through the Android Market,” a spokesman told PC Magazine in a statement.

However, in the FCC complaint Free Press claims, as an example, “if a user purchases an HTC Thunderbolt smartphone for use on Verizon’s LTE network …that user will not be able to download certain tethering applications from the Android Market.”

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Erin Harrison is Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives, for TMC, where she oversees the company's strategic editorial initiatives, including the launch of several new print and online initiatives. She plays an active role in the print publications and TechZone360, covering IP communications, information technology and other related topics. To read more of Erin's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin

Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives

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