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FCC Mandates Verizon to Allow Tethering Apps on Android Smartphones

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States opens an investigation to see if Verizon Wireless is in compliance with the “C Block rules” when it acquired a license for C Block spectrum. The said investigation was called upon by the bureau after hearing several reports claiming that the carrier is pressuring Google to block apps from its Play Store that provide users capability to share (or technically known as ‘tether’) their internet connection.

Verizon requires its customers to pay $20/month for official tethering functionality on top of their data plan.

According to the FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, compliance with FCC rules regarding the use of C Block spectrum is never optional for carriers. Thus, Verizon Wireless is obliged to allow its customers to use whatever apps they need even if it means sharing their connection with other owners of internet-capable devices.

“The open device and application obligations were core conditions when Verizon purchased the C-block spectrum,” said Genechowski in a press release statement. He further added that FCC seeks to protect not just the right of the customers to use devices and applications they want but also innovators to continue develop new services for the people without fear of being blocked.

Verizon Wireless bid at auction to acquire C Block spectrum in which it is now offering 4G LTE service. However, the spectrum acquisition was accompanied by obligations to offer open device and application. Therefore, Verizon “shall not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of their customers to use the devices and applications of their choice.”

The FCC orders Verizon Wireless to pay $1.25 million as settlement to the Treasury. This is just a parcel of the carrier’s $6.9 billion revenue it has gained from the mobile market in the second quarter of this year. The company is also ordered to notify Google that the objection to the tethering apps from the Play Store is now off. This means that when new tethering apps become available in the app store, everyone would be able to download and use them without additional fees even if they are Verizon customers.

Verizon will, of course, continue to charge its customers with their overall data use every month so for those who have capped data will not be able to enjoy tethering functionality but the ones with unlimited data plans are the luckiest. The FCC’s ruling made everybody a winner; consumers under the network would be able to share their connection, app developers don’t fear of being blocked when releasing tethering apps, and Verizon can attract more customers to subscribe to their unlimited plan.