Last summer, we talked about the controversy surrounding Verizon and its war on free tethering. The carrier requested that Google block access for its users to apps in the then-Android-Market, trying to ensure that tethering was only available to subscribers paying Verizon an extra fee. An advocacy group took the issue to the attention of the FCC, where it attempted to argue that certain provisions Verizon agreed to when getting its LTE spectrum prohibited the carrier from restricting access to apps. A long time’s passed since then, but today the FCC has revealed the outcome of its investigation, which includes a “fine” for Verizon and a promise from the carrier to stop blocking tethering apps for certain users.
Instead of this being an open-and-shut case, Verizon was able to convince the FCC to some extent that tethering charges (and the associated app blocking) were justified as they directly resulted in users consuming more data. Those arguments came down to a distinction between users on unlimited and those on the newer, tiered data plans.
Data on a tiered plan is yours to use as you’d like, so Verizon can no longer charge extra for tethering or block those apps on such plans. Unfortunately, the same courtesy won’t extend to users on grandfathered unlimited plans, and while we may not like it, we can understand why the FCC bought Verizon’s objections.
The FCC isn’t calling the money the government’s taking from Verizon as a result of this incident a “fine”, but a “voluntary payment” instead; any way you slice it, Verizon’s on the hook for $1.25M. In the future, Verizon’s promised to check with its legal department first before it asks app store owners to block anything.