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Verizon fined for blocking tethering apps: This could set a new precedent

tethering - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

In what I think is sure to set a significant precedent that will affect thousands of smartphone users across the country, the FCC recently told Verizon Wireless that the company can no longer block access to tethering apps that allow subscribers to bypass Verizon’s more expensive tethering plans. Additionally, Verizon has to pay the US Treasury $1.25 million.

The FCC’s statement specifically states that the carrier can continue to charge its standard fee of $20 for tethering on grandfathered unlimited plans, but tacking on an extra charge to capped data plans is highway robbery, plain and simple. So, if you pay for 2GB of data each month, you should be able to use those 2GB any way you see fit. However, the carrier can still protect itself from abuse of its unlimited data plans by charging extra for tethering.

It’s unclear how this will affect carriers such as Sprint, who continues to offer unlimited data plans on all of its smartphones. On the one hand, Sprint was guilty of blocking tethering apps in the Google Play Store late last year, but they’ve since seemed to relax a bit. Sprint is also in the somewhat odd position of capping tethering plans, even though the smartphone data itself is unlimited.

In any case, I agree with the FCC: I don’t think that any carrier should block access to any app. That is censorship, and it goes against the open nature of Android. On the other hand, I do think that carriers who offer unlimited data plans should be able to protect themselves from abuse. It’s certainly a sticky area, to be sure, but I’d like to know what you think: are tethering fees a reasonable expense that a carrier should ask its customers to pay, or should all data be treated equally? Does it matter if a plan is capped or unlimited?

Sound off below.

[Ars Technica | Image credit: TMCnet]
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John F

John was the editor-in-chief at Pocketables. His articles generally focus on all things Google, including Chrome and Android, although his love of new gadgets and technology doesn't stop there. His current arsenal includes the Nexus 6 by Motorola, the 2013 Nexus 7 by ASUS, the Nexus 9 by HTC, the LG G Watch, and the Chromebook Pixel, among others.

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7 thoughts on “Verizon fined for blocking tethering apps: This could set a new precedent

  • Avatar of Steve C.

    I would be perfectly happy if Sprint would allow free use of the hotspot with a data cap of something like 2gb to help protect them from abuse as long as it didn’t take away unlimited data on my phone. Although this is moot since the people abusing the data consumption are already rooted and will still be able to abuse the system.

  • I really do not like the federal government telling private companies what to do. This just puts us on a slippery slope. I wouldn’t really call it censorship since Verizon is in the private sector. Censorship comes from the government. If someone does not like it they can shop around.

    • Spectrum are publicly owned by everyone as a part of the general commons. The FCC auctions various blocks of spectrum, granting a licence to broadcast in one of these blocks to various companies. Buyers are not actually buying the spectrum, they’re buying a license or a right to use them.
      If the FCC weren’t involved, think about how many different devices would interfere with one another – cell phones, GPS, traffic signals, radios, WiFI… Remember why the Light Squared/Sprint deal tanked?

    • Go ahead let people decide what you can and can’t do. I understand the government is sort of telling these companies what to do but it is in protection of the people. Its not like they are forcing them to give free service. Its just telling them that one charge for a service is all they need to charge. No double charging. Maybe you’d like to live in china and be told what you can and can’t do on the internet. I’m sorry but if I’m paying for a certain amount of data I should be able to use that data anyway I want. Especially if its only 2gb.

  • I have to agree with Erik. It is not the place of the government to set pricing for private companies. If company X wants to double, triple, or quadruple charge for a product, so be it. If the want to block certain apps from functioning on their network, so be it. If they want to do these things knowing fully that company Y is NOT doing them, and will take all of company X’s customers, so be it…

    Nobody has ever forced anyone to purchase a Verizon phone or sign up for a Verizon contract… This is the beauty of the free market.

  • Avatar of Tyler Osborne

    I just noticed Barnacle Wifi Tether is blocked by Sprint. Says so in the market.


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