Verizon given $1.25m fine for allegedly blocking tethering apps
Verizon Wireless, one of the biggest carriers in America, has agreed to stop blocking its Android subscribers from using third party tethering apps.
The ruling from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has also left Verizon out of pocket - $1.25 million (£805k) out of pocket to be precise.
Teetering on the tethering tightrope
Tethering, or the act of using one’s phone as a wireless hotspot for tablets and laptops, was originally acceptable with Verizon so long as users pay $20 per month in their contract.
However, utilising third party tethering apps allows users to get around the charge, and in May last year Verizon requested to Google that they block all access to third-party tethering apps.
The media reform group Free Press objected to this and filed off a complaint citing that Verizon were not adhering to FCC net neutrality conditions, in a manner which “restricts consumer choice and hinders innovation regardless of which carrier adopts such policies”.
It has to be noted that Verizon wasn’t the only carrier facing the wrath of Free Press, with AT&T and T-Mobile also cited at the time of the complaint.
Verizon had won a heavy chunk of the 700MHz mobile broadband spectrum in 2008 auctions, and having agreed to the FCC conditions alongside their $4.7bn (£3.03bn) payout, did not adhere to them.
Subsequently, while this news has come as a relief to Free Press, they warned: “While we are pleased that the FCC finally acted...we remain concerned that consumers of other carriers lack the same basic protections that Verizon’s customers have under the law”.
Verizon had said in a statement: “Verizon Wireless has always allowed its customers to use the lawful applications of their choice on its networks, and it did not block its customers from using third-party tethering applications.”
What can be inferred from both statements is open to interpretation.
Consumers winning the battle?
This is another piece of good news for consumers, though not so good for operators.
Last month the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) enforced new regulations against telcos in order to give “materially greater protection” to consumers against the likes of bill shock and poor customer service.
Telecoms guru David Werdiger, writing exclusively for TelecomsTech, said that the Australian telecoms industry had “dodged a bullet” with the new code.
But what does this and the news from ACMA say about the telecoms industry? Is there a trend emerging?
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