Verizon is being forced by the FCC to pay a fine for apparently blocking their users from accessing third-party tethering apps. As is the case with most of these FCC fines, the $1.25 million settlement amount is chump change to a company as huge as Verizon, but it’s more about the message the FCC sends to companies than it is about the money. Verizon will also be forced to train its employees on proper C Block procedure, which it is accused of breaking by blocking third-party tethering apps.
To get a bit more specific, Verizon purchased the C Block spectrum at auction intending to use the spectrum for its 4G LTE service. The purchase of C Block came with the requirement that Verizon had to keep C Block spectrum open to all devices and applications, something that Verizon ignored when it allegedly worked with Google to block its customers from accessing tethering apps on the Google Play Store. After receiving complaints from Verizon customers, the FCC launched an investigation and eventually arrived at the $1.25 million fine the company is being forced to pay today.
Verizon, for its part, maintains that it never blocked users from accessing these third-party apps, but with the company now being forced to pay the fine and comply with the open requirements for C Block anyway, what Verizon claims doesn’t much matter. Keep in mind that other carriers can still block access to tethering apps because they don’t own the C Block spectrum, and this FCC decision only applies to the spectrum’s owner. Therefore, this settlement with the FCC isn’t as far-reaching as some wireless customers would like.
Still, the FCC says that this is an important step forward in making sure that customers get to enjoy open broadband networks. “This case was the first of its kind in enforcing the pro-consumer open access obligations of the C Block rules,” said Enforcement Bureau Chief P. Michele Ellison in a statement today. “It underscores the agency’s commitment to guarantee consumers the benefits of an open wireless broadband platform by providing greater consumer choice and fostering innovation.” You can bet that Verizon isn’t all too happy with the FCC’s decision, but it’s good to be able to report on something that’s a win for consumers nonetheless.