Jun 08 AT 3:47 PM Justin Shapcott 25 Comments

Is Verizon in violation of its LTE licensing requirements?

It’s my notion that when you purchase data services, your provider should not be concerned with how you go about accessing those services. It turns out I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Recently Free Press, a non-profit organization aiming to reform the media, has filed a complaint with the FCC asking them to investigate Verizon’s practice of restricting access to services through tethering–specifically citing Verizon’s request to remove tethering applications from its version of the Android Market. According to the complaint, this is in direct violation of the licensing rules Verizon agreed to when purchasing the spectrum used to roll out the LTE network.

In order to back up its claim, Free Press calls out a clause in the agreement, which states that the licensee “shall not deny, limit or restrict the ability of their customers to use the devices and applications of their choice.”

Free Press then explains in detail how the act of removing third-party tethering applications from the Android Market violates this clause. These are the major points of argument:

  1. Disabling access to tethering applications effectively limits the ability to use applications of one’s choosing.
  2. Removing tethering applications from the Android Market limits and restricts the ability  to use devices of one’s choosing.
  3. Verizon’s actions violate the Commission’s rules, even though Verizon needs Google’s assistance to disable applications in the Android Market.
  4. The exemptions set forth in the C Block Rules do not excuse Verizon’s conduct.

The full complaint can be found on the Free Press website.

While this pertains to the LTE contract, I am not aware of any such clause applying to Verizon’s 3G network. So, this issue might be a question in three parts.

  1. Can Verizon differentiate between its 3G and 4G network? (Surely that is possible, right?)
  2. Does Verizon have an obligation to allow 4G handsets to use third-party tethering applications, if they are not using the 4G network while tethering?
  3. Does Verizon have an obligation to allow tethering at all?

So, what say you? Has Verizon violated the openness rules it agreed to when purchasing the spectrum for its LTE network? Or, does Verizon have a right to restrict how its customers access its network?

Via: Phandroid

Source: Free Press

Justin is the founder of and lead developer at nEx.Software.

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  • http://Website JayMonster

    Nope they haven’t, nope it doesn’t. The big point about this openness, was supposed to be that you could finally take phones from carrier to carrier without working about unlocking it. There is nothing in there that says that VZW has to allow non-cellular devices access to their network without cost.

    Sure, there are plenty of justifications why people think ” data is data” or try to compare it to when ISPs tried to charge for wi- fi access to their home internet, but none of them are actually valid (legally). Plus all VZW had to do is claim it is necessary for network management ( and to recoup their infrastructure costs) and they will get a pass.

    The best this might (and I stress MIGHT) do is get the FCC TP send a letter too VZW to ask them about it, to which their lawyers will send 100 page reply that nobody on the FCC is qualified to question, and that wil New the end of that.

    • http://www.niola.net Jon Niola

      Jay I think your interpretation is inaccurate. There were explicit service conditions attachec to the 700mhz spectrum when the FCC first auctioned off the licences.


      One part stands out:

      Network Neutrality/Right to Attach

      All licensees would be required to operate their networks in a manner that

      “protects the consumer’s right to use any equipment, content, application

      or service on a non-discriminatory basis without interference from the

      network provider.” This protects against the licensee giving favorable

      speeds or quality of service to content,applications and services in which it

      has a financial interest. It also ensures that the consumer can attach any

      non-harmful equipment to the network. The FCC’s 1968 Carterfone decision

      mandated this attachment principle for wireline networks, but it has yet to

      be extended to wireless.

      Tethering is just an application. It is not attaching another piece of equipment to the network since all traffic is still routed through the attached device. If you pay for 5Gb of bandwidth you still have same limits and caps wether you tether or not.

      All the drama is basically the carriers being greedy and trying to extort more fees.

      • http://Website JayMonster

        Yes, read that and… the first part, covering net neutrality means that VZW can’t block (for example) YouTube to try and force people to use their VZVideo service.

        And the Carterphone decision has the whole “non-detrimental” clause which could (not saying it os right, just that it could) be used, but inn reality that (as I stated before) is really about phone portability, so you could take an LTE phone from any provider or carrier and use it on VZW.

        Understand, I don’t like this any more than anyone else, I am just being practical about where this is currently headed, rather than trying to say this is how it must be because that is how I would like it to be.

        The real problem at the end of the day is twofold… lobbying dollars that the telcos have, and too little competition in the wireless space. Realistically (in the US) we have a Duopoly, and that does not bode well for change. Just because that is wjay we want it to mean, doesn’t make it the case.

  • http://Website @neidlinger

    “shall not deny, limit or restrict the ability of their customers to use the devices and applications of their choice.”

    VZW blocks certain apps or certain radio bands and frequencies.

    Yes they are in violation of the agreement(s).

    • http://Website Kleptine

      If only legal issues were that easy…

      • http://Website Doug

        “If only legal issues were that easy…”

        If only peopole would not give up so easily…. the myth that the mighty organizations providing our phone service need to get their way will get displelled.

  • http://www.twitter.com/DrJeckyl Dr.Jeckyl

    The sooner we legislate/delegate/relegate ISPs to just “dumb” pipes of data the better. I pay for my data, let me use them how I want. If I go over my allotment, fine, charge me. But don’t tell me how I can use my packets.

    • http://Website JayMonster

      Yeah, good luck getting that legislated. The Telco lobbyist will get that squashed in a heartbeat.

  • http://Website the big guy2001

    i wonder if this is why they are giving away tethering right now with the 4g droids, because anyone that has one knows that the mobile hotspot service is free on promotion right now. personally i think you guys are interpenetrating this wrong, i am not a lawyer but if I take your interpretation they can’t charge for minutes on the plan or even data service they just need to give us access to the network for free, i don’t think that’s the way it works

    • http://www.nexsoftware.net Justin Shapcott

      Nobody is asking for free service. The complaint relates to prohibiting customers from accessing a service that they pay for. Why does Verizon need to care if you use your data that you pay for to run a phone, a tablet, or a microwave? The fact is you are ‘attaching’ one device to their network, and then connecting one or more devices to your one ‘attached’ device. That attached device will not allow those connected devices to use more data than it is capable of using itself. Given this, the idea that tethering will cause more strain on the network (the thing they claim to be mitigating by limiting tethering) is invalid. It ultimately boils down to the fact that they want to charge extra for the tethering feature (regardless of whether they are giving it away at the moment).

      • http://Website the big guy2001

        to me this argument reminds me of ones that “cheater box” or “pirate boxes” used to receive and decode all the channels that the cable company sends to your house. the argument you are using is I pay for email and web on my phone I want to take that and use it not on my phone but on my laptop, ipad, whatever. just because you can easily circumvent the measures put in place by your cell phone company doesn’t mean you should. last time I checked all the providers sell the tethering service you are saying a “pirate” program allows you to access a service you aren’t paying for. I would never be the one to turn you in but I do want to point out you are doing the same thing as stealing premium channels from the cable company.

        • http://www.twitter.com/DrJeckyl Dr.Jeckyl

          That argument is bullshit and you know it. Or you don’t understand how this works.

          I pay for a DATA plan on my AT&T service. It includes web, email and texting. I’m allowed 2gigs of DATA a billing cycle. If I use my DATA through my phone for streaming Pandora that’s what I pay for. If I go over that 2gigs they will add 1gig for $10 automatically. If I tether, wirelessly or through usb, to a laptop through my phone then it’s still using MY DATA I’M PAYING FOR ALREADY. It’s still going through MY phone using MY DATA allotment and my 2gigs runs down. AT&T shouldn’t be able to dictate how I use that DATA. No one is advocating we get FREE data, just that the carriers shouldn’t be able to tell us how we can use it.

          See my comment above, ISPs and carriers should be a dumb pipe. NOT dictating how we are able to use the GROSSLY overpriced data we are paying for.

          • http://Website the big guy2001

            actually I think i understand it better than most. read you service agreement with your service provider. I don’t know about at&t but tmobile and verizons don’t allow theses programs and rooting is also not allowed. I know you feel you pay for web and you are interpreting that that means you can do whatever you want with it but you cant. I believe that the reason why Verizon is limiting these apps and asking people not to use them is they actually want to keep the unlimited data plan, but customer abuse is forcing them to go to a teared structure same reason that the other companies did this

          • Lane

            The pirate box argument would better translate to a situation where you bought 5GB of data, then somehow cheated the network into giving you another 1GB of data for free. Also, it doesn’t matter what the terms of service say if it is against the law. Verizon’s agreement with the FCC is to not block apps or devices. The agreement where you get 5GB of data that can also be bandwidth-limited is enough to protect their network. Blocking tethering apps is a clear violation.

  • http://Website thetruth

    it is google’s market. Verizon isn’t blocking anything it is google doing the blocking. I am sure Verizon has enough smart lawyers to point this out.

    • http://Website BrianC

      Yes, it’s googles market. However, if verizon requests google to remove certain applications, then they are responsible for that.

      Kind of like it’s illegal to hire a hitman. I didn’t kill anyone is not a valid defense.

  • http://Website Richard Yarrell

    Verizon is the worst of the worst, a truly terrible carrier full of disgrace! However, SPRINT is the way to go. Everybody loves SPRINT, especially when you got an EVO.
    I tell you, get an EVO – it puts everything else to shame!

    • http://Website i t-bagged richard today

      You mothertrucker, your pissing mua off with all your gibberish. Seriously Dick, 3d 4d or double d’s it don’t matter brotha the EVO sucks crocodile testes. Seriously nooga you need to fall back with all that or ill slap you upside the head and make you wish you had melons for breakfast. Peace.

      • http://Website Greg

        Did you enjoy your nuts being in Richard’s mouth?

      • http://Website Mark

        How can someone be a carrier fanboy? lol…you’re a joker. We’re all united in Android here. No carrier fanaticism here.

        • http://www.nexsoftware.net Justin Shapcott

          I dunno… I’ve been boycotting Verizon for upwards of 11 years, avoiding AT&T for about as long, supporting and recommending T-Mobile for upwards of 10 years. Probably makes me a carrier fanboy.

    • http://Website JayMonster

      If Sprint was worth a damn, then perhaps you would have an argument, and people would be flocking to Sprint. However, as the last… what… 900,000 quaters have show, Sprint is losing customers…. must be a reason they aren’t feeling the love… maybe it is that shrinking coverage area that people have been seeing lately. And if it wasn’t for VZW (and some leftover stuff from Alltell) Sprint wouldn’t even have T-Mobile type coverage.

  • http://Website BrianC

    1) irrelevant
    2) not according to the terms of the LTE contract
    3) legally no, as long as the customer agrees to terms excluding tethering beforehand.

    • http://Website BrianC

      but yes, they do need to allow tethering on 4G devices, when those devices are using 4G

  • http://Website Jack C

    This is why the AT&T – T-Mobile merger should be blocked.

    Carriers already have massive influence that they throw around, trying to bully manufacturers, software companies, customers, and everyone in-between. Further consolidation among carriers will naturally lead to more of this sort of behavior, which is bad for everyone other than short term investors.