FCC orders Verizon to stop blocking tethering apps, reaches $1.25 million settlement


The FCC has ruled that Verizon can longer tell customers how to use the data they rightfully pay for, and if that should include sharing of bandwidth via third-party tethering app, so be it. Verizon initially came under scrutiny after the company began blocking access to apps in the Android Market/Google Play Store that allow a smartphone user to share their data connection with a PC, a move that most saw as a blatant attempt to force customers to pony up an additional $20 per month for an officially supported version of the same feature.

The FCC’s reasons for ruling against Verizon have more to do with an LTE spectrum auction than with them telling Verizon how to run their business. As part of the deal that went along with this so-called C block spectrum, a highly desirable area of bandwidth, the FCC ordered that the owner of the spectrum could not limit the abilities of devices or users plugging into it. The FCC saw Verizon’s app blocking as a violation of this, and has ordered that Verizon cease limiting customer access to tethering apps. Verizon was also ordered to pay a $1.25 million settlement.

The bottom line: you can now download whatever third-party tethering apps you so choose on your LTE-enabled Verizon handset. As part of recent pricing changes, users on tiered data plans won’t have to pay an extra fee to use such services. The FCC, however, has not limited Verizon’s right to charge customers on unlimited data plans additional fees for tethering.

[via ArsTechnica]

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  1. And Verizon just happened to include mobile hot spot on all of their new plans? Tell me they didn’t see this coming. They just increase their baseline to compensate and they don’t care anymore.

  2. FCC ordered that the owner of the spectrum could not limit the abilities of devices or users plugging into it – Does this include data limits?

    1. I believe that the agreement was that they couldn’t restrict content. So, they can’t block or slow particular websites or services. They CAN restrict access as a whole. Otherwise they wouldn’t be able to charge for it at all(I would think)

  3. Does this mean they have to stop blocking Google Wallet also?

    1. Ahhhh…good point! And yes, it does.
      “…the FCC ordered that the owner of the spectrum could not limit the abilities of devices or users plugging into it.”
      Hence the reason Google lobbied so hard for this provision during the Block C auction.

  4. Convenient timing. Forced to allow tethering now that data is limited and tethering is included on the new plans anyway. By upgrading, you’re forced onto the new plans and lose unlimited data for those who still have it.

    1. Yes, but for those of us grandfathered into unlimited plans still, it’s great news. I’m going into Verizon tomorrow to cancel my $30/mo unlimited tethering and will stick to the other $30/mo for unlimited data.

      1. Huge win for you congrats! Unlimited data carriers especially on verizon have been in a bad place for some time now but this hopefully helps!

      2. also my mother of all people went to war with verizon when she got her galaxy s3 to keep her unlimited data and won lol. But she did teach me how to log into the internet years ago when it first went live so I guess I should expect this from her!

        1. It needs to be said: Your mother is awesome.

          1. haha thanks she was almost in tears when it arrived and I wonder why I am into phones so much lol

      3. They’re not going to honor grandfathered plans anymore. When you upgrade, you’ll be forced onto one of the new plans. I’m going to hold on to my unlimited data as long as I can but will have to upgrade sometime.

        1. Not if you pay full retail for a phone.

      4. Not sure, but it’s possible that such a change in your plan will force a switch to tiered data.

      5. Perhaps you missed the last sentence of the article: “The FCC, however, has not limited Verizon’s right to charge customers on unlimited data plans additional fees for tethering.”

    2. I’m going to hold on to this unlimited data with all I’ve got.

  5. Now let’s just have them tell Verizon, under the same stipulation, that they can’t keep locking bootloaders. I already filed my complaint with the FCC.

  6. Does this apply to blackberries?

  7. Ha, told them so, back couple years ago got into a argument on DroidForums.
    Hate to say I told you so, but, I told you so!
    Sounds like unlimited data people are getting screwed.

    1. huh?

      1. LOL that is what I said…. Huh??

        1. If you pay for the access, the ISP has no say in what devices you use, you are paying for the internet service. Huh?

          “The FCC, however, has not limited Verizon’s right to charge customers on unlimited data plans additional fees for tethering.” Huh?

          I am going to fast for you? Huh?

  8. Talk about a freaking win.

    1. Well said

  9. that might seem like a win, but considering I can tether with out any third party app. All my tethering needs on my Huawei Blaze. This shouldn’t be blocked at all.

  10. This is very reasonable. If you’re paying for x amount of data per month, and you want to tether every device in your house and use up your data in a day, that’s on you – you’re paying for x amount of data, and it’s none of their damn business how you use it.
    I hate to play devil’s advocate (especially for Verizon), but, I also think that it is fair that it doesn’t apply to unlimited users. I have refused to root people’s phones in the past when they told me that they just wanted to root so they could drop their ISP – that’s abuse, and I wasn’t going to be party to people sucking up my LTE bandwidth because they wanted to tether their laptops, smart TVs, xbox360s, PS3s, blu-ray players, iPods, tablets, and, if possible, their toaster to their phones.

    1. whatever. They already rape us on cost, if I’m paying for unlimited data, what part of UNLIMITED don”t you get? Stop acting as if data is a limited resource.

    2. I agree. But being an unlimited user with an S3, I find it annoying that I have to pay the $30/month for tethering/hotspot for the kid’s tablets when we’re in the car. The most that we’ve ever used in a month via the hotspot on my phone was a little over 1 gig (long road trip). Most months it’s been under 200 megs.

      I have a solid 50Mbit connection at home and sure as h3ll don’t want to use my flakey 4G connection in place of it.

      So, for those of use that dont want to take advantage of unlimited data, why cant they just cap the hotspot data on unlimited data devices? Heck, even 1 gig of “free hotspot data” would be enough for me. Even if it were only 3G….I wouldn’t care.

      Just sayin’

  11. Great! We need more Of this! Now go over to the bastards and thieves at att andake em pay out the arse too!

    1. I would be surprised if it didn’t happen. Although in Verizon’s case, it had more to do with the C block spectrum, the fact still remains that if you paid for x amount of data, it’s none of the phone company’s business how you spend it. If anything, I think it would make more business sense to allow free tethering, because then, people would be more likely to go over their limit and get hit with those ridiculous overage charges. If they don’t change on their own, I would be surprised if a class-action lawsuit didn’t arise. I’m not a lawyer (I have a soul), but it costs the carriers precisely zero for the actual tethering itself. I absolutely understand that these are companies, not charities, and as such have every right to maximize profits (they also have to answer to share-holders), but charging for tiered data is like taxing a tax.
      I’m glad the “water tasting” analogy hasn’t come up in awhile. I was getting sick of that one.

  12. Can some1 explain what this means for those of that are still grandfathered into unlimited? Obviously i get that i can now download these 3rd party apps, but would i be charged only if i used a crap ton of data and thus be throttled? Just curious if some1 could give a little more detail on that. Thanks.

    1. Tethering is NOT allowed with an Unlimited account with ANY app unless you pay them $30 month.

  13. Does this mean they can’t charge for mobile hotspot?

  14. I don’t see why unlimited data plans are hated on so much, Verizon’s the one that offered them, I still pay a monthly fee, and if I want to run my whole friggin’ house off of it, I should be allowed to. I’ll buy my next phone at full retail, but don’t think I’ll sign another contract and get sucked into limited data. And if they do make it mandatory, I’ll switch.

    1. agreed

    2. Same here. I can switch to TMO, be on my wife’s plan, save tons of money, and be guaranteed a future nexus device!!!

    3. That’s why I wont switch to VZ. I’ve been loving TMO for years. They might not be the best or fastest (in general) but have been comparable to Sprint and ATT (who I’ve had both) in terms of speed. On top of that, I still have unlimited data. Hell, I used to tether my G1 to my laptop on the road and play MMO’s with no lag! (at least until they started the throttling thing).

  15. We need to know about Google Wallet blockade

  16. or just scrap your Andriod OS and add CM7 or CM9 and boom you got it built in!!

    1. Ummm…I think you need to rephrase that to “scrap your STOCK Android OS”.

  17. Well that’s a bit redundant when it doesn’t apply to unlimited. Especially for LTE users. I still don’t believe everyone’s gripe that using unlimited data and tethering is ‘abuse’. That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard. I’m pretty close to leaving Verizon because of all the teird data plans and forcing us to pay full price for late pizza.. Er I mean to upgrade without losing unlimited data.

  18. So if I am on a tiered plan and tether 2 GB that is ok, but if I am on an unlimited plan and tether 2 GB…i’m some kind of abuser. Makes no sense…I’m paying the same amount for data. I could understand if I tethered 30 GB or something but if you use less than the tiered plan Verizon shouldn’t care

  19. The reason for limited data plans is because theirs only so much spectrum to go around.

  20. What about AT&T and other phone companies?

  21. Right On!

  22. Verizon is already trying to get me to add 2 years to my contract with the offer of a “FREE” phone. I pay close to $150/month for unlimited voice texting and 2 G data. I’m not signing anything.

  23. I had perfect reception with T-Mobile 4 years ago 12 miles south of Bellingham WA. It got so I had none at all about 1 1/2 years ago. Texting no problem. Voice no reception. I had to pay $515 to get out of a contract with no usable service. One employee told me: “We don’t guarantee service anywhere!” What’s the point of a cell I use to talk to elderly patients as I’m a Nurse Practitioner and they don’t all text. So I’m out $515 even after calling the Attorney General’s Office in 2 states and writing 3 letters explaining why I need my voice power back. No go. Big Surprise! Already got $25 several years ago from Verizon for a class action lawsuit.

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