Earlier this week advocacy group Free Press formally complained to the Federal Communications Commission concerning Verizon's ban of 4G tethering apps, claiming that the action violates the openness rules set forth in the agency's net neutrality guidelines and terms the company agreed to when it bought the spectrum in 2008.
In its complaint, Free Press claims that the wireless carrier asked Google to remove tethering apps from the Android Market. The motivation for doing this, according to Free Press, is because Verizon wants to charge a monthly fee of $20 for subscribers to use their phone as an ad hoc modem. Free Press says that these requests to Google violate the openness rules that the FCC attached to the C Block spectrum that Verizon bought at auction in 2008. Those rules require that Verizon allow users to use devices, services and apps without interference from the carrier.
Google, who used to be a strong advocate of net neutrality, has changed its tune since it introduced proposals last year alongside Verizon. Now the company is largely silent on the issue and has complied with Verizon's takedown requests related to tethering apps.
The Free Press complaint is a first attempt to test the openness rules the FCC put on the mobile phone spectrum in 2008.
"In Verizon’s case, limiting access to tethering applications is not just a bad business practice and a bad policy choice; it also deliberately flouts the openness conditions imposed on Verizon’s LTE spectrum," the Free Press complaint reads. "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."
Verizon spokeswoman Debi Lewis said in a statement to Wired that that it does not control the Android Market, and does not feel that it is violating the openness rules:
"Verizon Wireless doesn’t block applications in the Android Market; Google manages its market (as we manage V CAST 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."