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Verizon refuses to change its stance on Google Wallet

As Phandroid readers may know, I’ve taken up an ongoing battle with Verizon Wireless and their alleged violation of the so called “C Block” regulations (47 C.F.R. § 27.16) for blocking Google Wallet. To briefly recap:

Back in October of 2012 I submitted a complaint to the FCC regarding Verizon’s alleged violation of the C Block regulations. After nearly three months of silence from the FCC, I submitted an amended complaint, re-alleging my arguments and including a new one. The new argument was that Big Red had implemented its own payment system, ISIS, using the secure element. This fact is a BIG deal. Why? Because the use of the secure element was the crux of Verizon’s argument for disallowing Google Wallet. In response to an inquiry to Verizon, by me, in late September 2012, Verizon stated:

I can tell you that Verizon does not block applications. Google Wallet is different from other widely-available m-commerce services. Google Wallet does not simply access the operating system and basic hardware of our phones like thousands of other applications. Instead, in order to work as architected by Google, Google Wallet needs to be integrated into a new, secure and proprietary hardware element in our phones. We are continuing our commercial discussion with Google on this issue. – Samatha from Verizon Wireless Customer Service 9/26/2012.

As you can see in the quote above, Verizon directly attributed its limiting the use of Google Wallet because of Google’s use of the secure element. Now compare that quote, from Samantha at Verizon, to the screenshot on the right.  Go ahead… I’ll wait….

Ok then, now back to the present.

Recently I received a cc’d response from Verizon to the FCC stating, in no uncertain terms,  “Verizon Wireless does not block applications.” Being an attorney, I recognize a lawyer’s response when I see one. This response by the carrier is “technically” true.  Verizon is playing a game of semantics — that’s an attorney’s bread and butter, and something in which I’m well versed. A carrier does not block an application, by virtue of the fact that it does not control the Play Store, Google does. However, according to the FCC’s July 31, 2012 decree (you know, the one where Verizon “voluntarily” paid $1.25 million in exchange for now allowing users to download tethering apps from the Play Store and the FCC dropping their investigation of Verizon’s practices…), the Commission explicitly stated:

…internal procedures and policies specifically designed to ensure that Application Store Communications do not include demands that Application Stores make unavailable to Verizon Wireless customers Third-Party Applications for use on its C-Block Network for which Verizon Wireless lacks a good faith belief that the Third-Party Application is unlawful or harmful to its network, customers, or customer devices. – In the matter of Cellco Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless.

To put it simply, the FCC admonished Verizon for asking Google to block applications from being downloaded by its customers.  The FCC also specifically stated Verizon could not ask Application Stores (read: Google Play) to block Verizon customers from downloading applications.  Those facts  mean, if Verizon asks Google to block an application from being downloaded by one of its customers, this is “blocking” an application from being downloaded in the eyes of the FCC and in violation of the FCC’s July 31st decree and C Block regulations. One small caveat:  Verizon can ask Google to block an application if Verizon has a good faith belief that the application is “unlawful or harmful to its network, customers, or customer devices”, but more on that shortly.

Now, without getting super technical (if you are a glutton for punishment and want to get super technical, feel free to read my amended complaint where I do investigate the technical issues and discuss the regulations), since Google Wallet uses the same (or substantially similar, i.e. use of the secure element) technology used by ISIS, Verizon cannot have a good faith belief Google Wallet is harmful in any way to its network, customers or customers’ devices.

That’s the state of affairs, as it currently stands.  As Phandroid readers (and Android enthusiasts) it is my hope that you will encourage the FCC to investigate this matter, as they’ve been taking a relatively hands off approach to the whole Google Wallet issue.  In my opinion, Verizon’s statements to the FCC (and its customers for that matter) are, at best, misleading and at worst, a complete misrepresentation of the facts. Feel free to download my amended complaint and submit it to the FCC and/or your Senators and US Representatives.  If you have questions for me regarding anything to do with Google Wallet, feel free to sound off in the comments section or connect with me on my website, +Jay Klimek or @EDNYLaw.




  • ed209

    Thanks for staying on this.

  • h4rr4r

    Glad someone is doing something about this.
    For your good deed I shall exempt you from my “hang the lawyers” decree when I am Emperor of Earth.

  • King_James_The_Wicked

    Good Work My Man…

  • http://www.twitter.com/ninjustin ninjustin

    Thank you, I’m all for screwing Verizon. I’m so glad my contract is getting closer to being done with them.

  • Scott Tompkins

    Nice work fighting the good fight… SOMEONE needs to keep these fat cats in check, if not the FCC :(

    • EDNYLaw

      Unfortunately, you’re right on the money with that one. Like my feelings about Congress, it’s become less about consumer rights and more about corporate interests.

      • PhaseBurn

        I find that horrific, seeing as how corporations CAN’T VOTE :-(

        • tomn1ce

          but they sure can lobby for their benefits and reward those who take their side…

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=708741524 Robb Nunya

            So can unions, and other PACs and SIGs. What’s your point?

          • lmclaurin777

            A union is nothing but a representative of middle class workers who speaks for those workers. The corporations don’t speak for anyone but shareholders.

        • EDNYLaw

          Well, according to Citizen’s United, corporations have free speech rights… so they might not have the right now, but….

          • PhaseBurn

            This reminds me of the Sci-Fi show “Continuum” :-/

          • Covert_Death

            best show ever…. thank you CANADA of all places for my favorite sci-fi show!

  • Jonathan DeJesus

    Verizon is once again trying to monopolize a market. How greedy is Verizon?

    • EDNYLaw

      Well they did “volunteer” to pay $1.25 million to the Treasury. I say “volunteer” in quotes because, while that sounds like a lot of money to us lowly working folks, that equated to .005% of their profits THAT QUARTER! So to answer your question “How greedy is Verizon?”, very.

  • Jonathan DeJesus

    I wonder how much money Verizon would make annually from Isis? The only reason they don’t want Google wallet is that Verizon can not profit from it. Greedy bastards

    • bkrodgers

      They can’t profit from Isis either…because it barely exists. Honestly, if Isis were readily available, matched the features of GWallet, and was well designed, I’d be less upset — though I still think it’s wrong for them to block it. The bigger issue to me is that they’re blocking GWallet in favor of something that, outside of two small cities, simply does not exist. It’s vaporware right now. It’s not just that we’re being forced to use their service. We’re being forced to use nothing, when a perfectly workable option exists.

      • AMbro86

        Isis is available in my area, I see signs all over town advertising they accept Isis transactions. But even so I can’t even use Isis because they don’t support Visa, the only cards I have, so I’m not going to go open a Chase account just so I can get used by verizon. I’ve also seen Google Wallet at checkout and have wished I could use it.

    • EDNYLaw

      Well, part of the issue I discovered while researching this is that Google just takes the hit when it comes to fees for credit. Verizon was going to charge fees (basically like a credit card company) to use ISIS. They didn’t like the free competition, I’m pretty sure that’s their business model.

  • http://bit.ly/TylerHilliard Tyler Hilliard

    Just submitted to FCC again.

  • Adrian Rodriguez

    What I find odd is that when I flashed the newest factory image from Google (JDQ39) on my old Verizon Galaxy Nexus it included Google Wallet.

  • moises1204

    why don’t people just realize how much Verizon is f***king them, why don’t they just leave the company instead of complaining? nothing would hurt Verizon more than loosing customers!

    • NotTheTodd

      because in the US, no one has better coverage. I could leave them on principal, but I like having my phone work nearly everywhere I travel

    • veccster

      As already said…they have the best coverage. And their pricing is no different than AT&T, the second best carrier in terms of coverage.

    • NealJ777

      I was with AT&T for over 10 years. I left AT&T because they started dropping calls in my area (Washington DC Metro Area and the Shenandoah Valley). I’m not a fan of VZW, but I’m not going to switch just because they won’t allow Wallet. Yeah,it would be cool if I could do it on my phone because it’s awkward carrying around the N7. :)

  • Hohlraum

    As soon as my contract is up I’m leaving Verizon for good. They have a good network but that doesn’t make them a good company.

    • xXAaronSXx

      May 30 is my last day as a Verizon customer for reasons such as this. T-Mobile will save me a ton of cash and no longer will I have to put up with the evil empire that is VZW. The grass may be greener, but at least I’ll be contract free it Tmo doesn’t work out.

      • Tom Nguyen

        I hate Verizon and their greediness, my contract with them has been up since last month. Been waiting for S4 on T-Mobile so I can transfer over.

    • AMbro86

      I seriously considered getting the Nexus 4 and going prepaid to get out from under Verizon. But unfortunately my wife was unconvinced by my argument (even though she hates Verizon too) because she was scared of going to an inferior network. So instead on getting a Nexus : ( I upgraded to a new phone on Verizon. While I’m enjoying my Razr HD greatly I’m seriously regretting being tried up with Verizon for another two years. Especially since they charge ridiculous fees and pull crap like blocking Google Wallet. And I would use Google Wallet right now if I could! Instead I have to use Isis, which I can’t use because it doesn’t support my credit card.

      Ugh! Verizon is awful and they just treat me like a bag of money, to be exploited and siphoned off as quickly as possible.

      While I did renew my contract when it’s up I’m going to dump them for sure and get whatever Nexus is out. I’ll just have to convince the wife sometime in the next two years that Verizon’s network isn’t worth the true cost they inflict.

      • Hohlraum

        From wikipedia: “Straight Talk is another operator, through a partnership between TracFone and Walmart, offering several different rate plans; a $30 limited plan, $45 30-day unlimited plan and a $60 unlimited international calling plan. Discounts are available for purchasing multiple months of the unlimited plan. Straight Talk is a Mobile Virtual Network operator (MVNO) offering both CDMA and GSM support. The CDMA network uses Verizon’s or Sprint’s CDMA 1xRTT wireless networks and the GSM side makes use of either T-Mobile’s or AT&T’s GSM networks.”

  • EDNYLaw

    Thanks for all the kind words, that makes it worthwhile (that and getting VZW fined of course!). I’ve been sincerely contemplating leaving VZW for Straight Talk and hopping on the next Nexus device. Anyone have any experience with Straight Talk around the NY or Boston area?

    • Montisaquadeis

      Depends on which phone you get as they use I believe all four or at least 3 of the big carriers networks. I know they use AT&T and Sprints networks and I have herd certain phones are on the verizon network have not herd anything about T-Mobiles network tho. My brother has had phones that use sprints and AT&Ts networks so I know those are true.

      • EDNYLaw

        I’d get something like the Nexus 4 (or 4S or whatever Google debuts this year) so I’d be limited to GSM using AT&T or T-Mobile towers. I know with Straight Talk ($45/month unlimited everything) you can use either company’s towers but if you go with AT&T you get no LTE but with T-Mobile you get HSPA+ however, I don’t think their coverage is as good as AT&T’s…. ah first world problems :)

    • castlefox

      I went from ATT to my Nexus4 on T-Mobile with their 30/month up to 5GB data plan but you only get 100 min of talking time. I LOVE this plan. I will never go back to ATT or signing a contract. #Unlocked-phones-for-life

  • Dan

    On the bright side isis goes national this summer and really is awesome. Ive been using it in SLC for almost a year now. I have google wallet as well on my nexus 7 and isis really is better. Isis put in all new parking meters downtown gives me free public transportation and a ton of great deals with local supermarkets. It saves all of the loyalty cards and coupons you have and applies them automatically. They also give everyone in salt lake 25$ on a prepaid card to try it out. I know everyone hates that the carriers block google wallet but once you get the secure sim from isis that may change. Correct me if im wrong here but tge secure element they speak of is actually built into a special sim card. I was getting the same error message on the isis app before I got the right sim.

    • Mittar Khalsa

      It’s not about whether Isis sucks or is good, it’s that Verizon is disallowing Google Wallet as a competitive move to push Isis. Illegal, or at least unethical stifling of competition.

      • EDNYLaw

        Well, it certainly violates the C Block regs, which isn’t technically illegal, but it is punishable. However, it may well be illegal as viewed by the FTC and anti-competitive practices, though that’s not my area of expertise.

  • Alu Zeros

    Isis blows and is an epic failure, all the major carriers know it but fail to admit it. It’s reached two cities or something around that. Oh boy, can’t wait till It hits 100. And maybe a 1000 in another 10 years.

  • Go Hawkeyes

    Seeing as I use Google Wallet on my unlocked and rooted Verizon Galaxy S3 on an almost daily basis I completely forgot that most people aren’t able to do the same unless they perform the same workaround that I did. This is total BS. I’m glad someone is still fighting the man.

  • Robert Higuera

    You know what I find funny, is this is still blatantly happening with other carriers and apps. Specifically try and download Foxfi or PDANet on a Sprint Android phone. It is not available. If you go into the App store using a web browser and pull up the app, it will specifically state it is not available for your carrier (Sprint). Despite the fact that it indeed works and it’s not due to a limitation of the carrier or device (I know because I’ve side-loaded it and use it). It is specifically being blocked at the behest of the carrier. A clear violation of the FCC rules.

    • EDNYLaw

      Problem is VZW is the only carrier operating on the upper 700 MHz spectrum (C Block) thus they are the only ones required to abide by the C Block regulations. Other carriers are free to block whatever they want (under FCC regulations) perhaps the FTC may have something to say about it, but that’s a whole other arena.

      • Doug Winfield

        Blocks A – E are covered by the Open Applications / Open Devices rules. That’s one of the reasons there are two versions of the iPhone5. Otherwise phones would have open access to both AT&T and VZW LTE networks.

    • Mark

      Sprint is not bound by the C block rules because they did not win any of it.
      Only Verizon and some other small fish won that auction so they are the only ones bound to that restriction.

    • BulletTooth_Tony

      Sprint is not subject to these rules. These only apply to the lessee of the Upper 700 MHz C-block in the United States — CellCo Partnership d.b.a. verizonwireless.com.

  • guitarist5122

    That ‘s ok, Verizon can suck it because I continue to use Wallet anyways thanks the awesome devs of XDA!

    • renGek

      Me too. But think how many more people out there would be using wallet if not for the likes of VZ and AT&T. And maybe wallet would have progressed further with better features. We’re a minority with wallet and if it doesn’t expand we’ll become extinct.

    • AMbro86

      Could you silly supply a link? I tried finding a way to simply side load Google Wallet but most places I looked said that it wasn’t working because of some crap Verizon was pulling. I’m on Verizon but would love to show my support for Google Wallet, and stick it to Verizon while I’m at it.

  • sstarz

    Yea, exactly what Jay says.

  • Marco Mendoza

    That’s why I just bought a nexus and don’t deal with carriers

  • http://profiles.google.com/dwray82 David Wray

    Emailed both of my state senators with your amended complaint. Keep fighting the good fight Mr. Klimek.

  • Azaraith

    Goodbye VZW. This annoyed me a lot, even though I found ways around it, but I’m also switching over because I want the HTC One and VZW has apparently decided they would rather keep pimping the DNA instead.

  • Tim

    Doesn’t matter what Verizon thinks, I’m using Google Wallet on my Verizon phone now and it works just great!

  • Jesslyn Hendrix

    I totally want to file a similar complaint with T-Mobile. I love their service otherwise, but this is just a money grab.

  • David Yanoshak

    Jay, I would like to submit your complaint to the FCC. Do I just simply send them your exact document, no changes?

  • MrDSL

    I dropped Verizon back in the day when they use to cripple their bt profiles so you couldn’t send files via bt between phones because they wanted to force you to use their stupid Vpic app or whatever is was.

  • Kyle Muehl

    I was upset to see I wasn’t able to get wallet on verizon, then I saw isis, then I saw how aweful isis is and i got sad again. Great job with this!

  • http://twitter.com/brentonator Brent

    Instead of doing all of that I just switched to T-Mobile. It’s $50/month cheaper, it’s actually faster than Verizon in both 3G and 4G areas vs HSPA+ on T-Mobile, and I get unlimited data.

    So much easier. Verizon is digging their own grave.

  • Caffiend

    Isn’t there an unfair trade/commerce claim somewhere in here as well? Granted that’s more for the FTC, but I would gather that if Big Red is preventing Google Wallet to do business in lieu of their own similar product, that’s definitely closing the market. A huge no-no in commerce.

  • renGek

    Nov 1st, I am done with Verizon. Even though I am leaving their blockage of wallet is harmful to the project overall. So I’m all in for the beat down on VZ.

  • itsgonnalast

    Thanks for pressuring Verizon on this. I’d like to see them explain why they’re the only carrier in the country (world?) doing this.

  • Brian S.

    Props on the use of the word “crux.”

    • EDNYLaw

      Nominating for best comment. I was tempted to link the word to dictionary dot com just because no one uses it :)

  • Brandon Watkins

    So how can I help?

  • tbonefsg

    I appreciate your efforts! Bring home the win for all of us.

  • Jeff Skilling

    Good on ya, Jay.

  • CAC1031

    Thank you for fighting this battle! Does the FCC have an obligation to answer in any time period? Can they sit on this forever? I’m really hoping Google Wallet will take off so it will encourage more businesses to use it.

  • shing

    Root your Verizon Galaxy S3, change it to identify itself as a T-mobile Galaxy S3,
    and tada! Google Wallet! So many lies by Verizon.