Verizon Wireless is no longer allowed to block apps that allow people to use their 4G LTE smartphones as Wi-Fi hotspots. Verizon Wireless has also agreed to pay US$1.25 million to settle a dispute with the telecoms regulator.
The FCC has been investigating Verizon’s business practices for the last 10 months to make sure that its 4G LTE service complies with so-called open access rules that were established as part of the 700 MHz spectrum auction in 2008. Verizon is using this spectrum to offer its 4G LTE service.
Verizon Wireless offers customers its LTE service on C Block spectrum. Verizon Wireless bid at auction to acquire that spectrum, understanding that it was accompanied by open device and application obligations. Specifically, licensees offering service on C Block spectrum “shall not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of their customers to use the devices and applications of their choice on the licensee’s C Block network,” subject to narrow exceptions.
The FCC’s enforcement bureau launched an investigation after reports suggested that Verizon Wireless had successfully requested that an app store block Verizon’s customers from accessing tethering applications from its online market.
The Commission also received an informal complaint alleging that Verizon Wireless had violated the FCC’s C Block rules by making a request to an app store to block Verizon’s customers from accessing tethering applications from its online market.
Under the terms of the settlement, Verizon Wireless will make a voluntary payment to the Treasury in the amount of $1.25 million, and has committed to notifying the application store operator that it no longer objects to the availability of the tethering applications to C-Block network customers in the operator’s online market.
In addition, the company recently revised its service offerings such that consumers on usage-based pricing plans may tether, using any application, without paying an additional fee.