The FCC reached a settlement with Verizon Wireless that will result in customers being able to download and use tethering apps from the Google Play Store. This act will also allow customers to WiFi tether without incurring the $20 fee for enabling your phones mobile hot spot feature. In addition, Verizon Wireless, the nations largest carrier, will have to pay the U.S Treasury $1.25 million and implement a compliance plan to ensure this does not happen again.

Under the terms of today’s settlement, Verizon Wireless will make a voluntary payment to the Treasury in the amount of $1.25 million, and has committed to notifying the application store operator that it no longer objects to the availability of the tethering applications to C-Block network customers in the operator’s online market. Verizon Wireless has also agreed to implement a compliance plan, requiring

  1. employees will receive training on compliance with the C Block rules;
  2. future communications with application store operators regarding the availability of applications to Verizon Wireless customers will be reviewed in advance by legal counsel; and
  3. Verizon will report any instances of noncompliance with the rule at issue that might occur during the two-year term of the plan.

In addition, the company recently revised its service offerings such that consumers on usage-based pricing plans may tether, using any application, without paying an additional fee.

The FCC’s ruling is a result of the 2008 C block auction in which Verizon bid on and won use of the 700mhz spectrum, which they use for LTE service. If you remember, Google was also in the running for this air space. Google decided to back out of the auction if and only if the FCC put a stipulation on the final purchase agreement. That stipulation was to allow customers to freely use devices and applications of their choosing while accessing this frequency, thus keeping the network ‘open’. Verizon has been blocking tethering applications for quite some time from the Google Play store, which is against the spectrum purchase rules. The FCC did what they had to do.

With that said, rarely in life do we find things that are truly free. The FCC ruled that Verizon Wireless was not allowed to block the download and use of 3rd party tethering applications. Just because you can run easily launch and run these applications now does not mean that Verizon Wireless isn’t cooking up a scheme in the background to monitor tethering usage. Please proceed with caution before racking up the MB’s and GB’s on your data plan until we get full clarification.