Free Press has filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, charging that Verizon Wireless is abusing conditions of its 700 MHz spectrum by not allowing LTE devices to be used as wireless routers. Verizon is not amused, noting that Free Press is simply looking for free press, and did not comply with FCC rules in filing the complaint.
At issue are the rules surrounding Verizon’s C-Block spectrum, which has an open-access provision. The FCC mandated the open-access provision at the time (2007) by saying market forces were inadequate in giving consumers greater choice and fostering innovation on handsets and applications. Cellular trade association CTIA sued over the provision, but later dropped the challenge.
“When Verizon purchased the spectrum licenses associated with its LTE network, it agreed that it would not ‘deny, limit, or restrict’ the ability of its users to access the applications and devices of their choosing. Recent news reports suggest that at Verizon’s behest, Google (Inc.) has disabled Verizon customers’ access to third-party tethering applications in Google’s Android Market application store. Plainly, Verizon’s actions in disabling access to the tethering applications limit and restrict the ability of users to access those applications. Because users download tethering applications for the express purpose of connecting additional devices to their data connections, Verizon’s actions also limit and restrict the ability of users to connect the devices of their choice to the LTE network. The Commission should immediately investigate this apparent violation of its rules and assess all appropriate penalties,” Free Press stated in its complaint.
Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Debra Lewis noted that Verizon does not manage Google’s Android Market. “Verizon Wireless doesn’t block applications in the Android Market; Google manages its market (as we manage Vcast Apps, and other app store providers manage their stores). Developers must adhere to their agreements with the app store providers and there are ways to report and point out non-compliance – for example apps that are essentially network work-arounds.
“Free Press filed this complaint with the FCC without contacting us to discuss the facts about the issue, as the FCC rules for formal complaints require. Free Press appears to be more interested garnering attention than finding out the facts. Verizon Wireless stands by its compliance with the FCC’s C-Block rules. Over the past few years, Verizon Wireless has paved the way for third parties to bring devices and applications to our 4G LTE network under the C-block rules through our Open Development and other programs, and we will continue to do so,” Lewis said.
Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility and others have special data plans that allow tethering on their 3G networks. Free Press said this in and of itself is unfair as there are applications that enable applications for free or for cheaper than what operators charge.