Good news for people who enjoy tethering their smartphones, but dislike having to pay their phone company extra for the privilege. Well, as long as those people are customers of Verizon. Who have Android devices. And aren’t grandfathered onto an unlimited data plan. Yesterday, the Federal Communication Commission announced that Verizon Wireless has to allow customers access to third-party tethering applications. Verizon insists that they totally never told Google to withhold tethering apps from their customers in the Android Market/Google Play. But they’re “voluntarily” paying a $1.25 million fine as a result of the investigation, and have agreed to train all employees on why they can’t block users from downloading any (legal) apps.
Tethering, if you’re not familiar, is using your mobile phone’s data capabilities to connect other devices to the Internet. It’s useful when traveling and away from wi-fi, or when your duplex neighbor moves out and the cable company turns off your Internet access, too, for good measure. Apple specifically prohibits third-party tethering apps in its walled garden, but Google doesn’t. (Users with rooted or jailbroken devices can pretty much do whatever they want.)
You’re not going to see AT&T or T-Mobile change their tethering rules anytime soon, though. Verizon had the bad luck to to build its LTE network on C Block spectrum of the invisible communications airwaves, which has exceptionally tight restrictions. Companies using that spectrum can’t restrict what applications their customers can use. Or, in governmentese, companies using C Block “shall not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of their customers to use the devices and applications of their choice on the licensee’s C Block network.”