* Verizon, FCC reach consent decree over C Block compliance
* Resolves probe into Verizon pressuring Google to block
* Future communications with app stores to be reviewed by
By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON, July 31 Verizon Wireless will pay
$1.25 million to settle a regulatory probe into whether it
blocked customer access to mobile broadband applications on
Android phones, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said
The U.S. telecommunications regulator said the payment
stemmed from a probe into whether Verizon Wireless, the biggest
U.S. mobile service provider, had complied with rules governing
spectrum used for high-speed wireless services.
Verizon Wireless purchased the so-called "C Block spectrum"
in an auction, with the understanding that the airwaves were
subject to rules that bar carriers from restricting devices or
applications customers can use.
The FCC's Enforcement Bureau opened an investigation after
reports surfaced that Verizon Wireless had Google Inc,
the developer of Android mobile phone software, disable
tethering applications, which allow for the use of a mobile
phone as a modem to provide wireless Internet access for another
device such as a tablet.
Verizon Wireless charges an extra monthly fee to customers
using smartphones for tethering, but the apps allowed users to
tether without paying the additional fee.
Public interest group Free Press filed a complaint in June
2011 charging that the carrier was violating its C Block
"Verizon Wireless has always allowed its customers to use
the lawful applications of their choice on its networks, and it
did not block its customers from using third-party tethering
applications," Verizon said in a statement.
"This consent decree puts behind us concerns related to an
employee's communication with an app store operator about
tethering applications, and allows us to focus on serving our
customers," the statement said.
In addition to the $1.25 million fine, the consent decree
forces Verizon Wireless to notify Google that it may again offer
the tethering apps to Verizon customers.
The company will also provide employees with training on C
Block compliance, have legal counsel review communications with
app store operators before they are sent and report any
instances of noncompliance to the FCC for the next two years.
Verizon Wireless customers with usage-based plans will also
be able to tether using any app without being charged.
"The steps taken today will not only protect consumer
choice, but defend certainty for innovators to continue to
deliver new services and apps without fear of being blocked,"
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said.
Free Press applauded the agency for sending a strong signal
that companies cannot ignore their pro-consumer obligations.
"We remain concerned that consumers of other carriers lack
the same basic protections that Verizon's customers have under
the law," Matt Wood, Free Press' policy director, said.