After a year of back and forth between the regulator and the carrier, the FCC has officially determined that Verizon did indeed violate both the spirit and the letter of the conditions spelled out in the requirements for the possession and subsequent operation of its LTE network which uses the 700MHz C block spectrum that carries the often contentious Open Access rules that have so far forced Verizon to ease up on its customer and enthusiast hostile practices, with the latest decision effectively restoring access to third-party tethering applications via Google Play, which were previously blocked from direct access by customers during the past year.
Of course, the latest ruling isn’t a complete victory for users of tethering apps, as the ruling does specify that tethering app usage is fine to bypass the additional $20 fee Verizon is phasing out for tethering on the carrier’s current tiered plans, but the regulator did say that the tethering fee was more than reasonable for those with older unlimited plans, though Verizon is no longer explicitly demanding the fee on those plans either, since unlimited data holders can (thanks to FCC’s C-Block terms) SIM-swap to a hotspot anyways:
Under the terms of today’s 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. Verizon Wireless has also agreed to implement a compliance plan, requiring
- employees will receive training on compliance with the C Block rules;
- future communications with application store operators regarding the availability of applications to Verizon Wireless customers will be reviewed in advance by legal counsel; and
- Verizon will report any instances of noncompliance with the rule at issue that might occur during the two-year term of the plan.
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.
With the FCC forcing Verizon to open up tethering app access to customers, the option to openly tether on LTE without an additional fee required on tiered plans will come as a positive change for enthusiasts and even regular consumers, as having to pay twice for the same data access is seen as extortionate. Although the $1.25 million penalty may seem small, Verizon may have also decided that paying it and opening up tethering app access was better than the alternative, with the FCC being able to levy even stiffer penalties for open access violations at its discretion.
While this ruling does not directly affect other carriers, it is important to note that such rulings do have an effect on how other carriers conduct business around the issue, with more responses to the ruling expected soon. It should also be mentioned that this ruling does not mean that customers will be forced onto Share Everything plans, contrary what has been widely and incorrectly reported in the wider media, nor will affect its 3G EV-DO network as that network is outside the scope of the ruling.