We recently learned that Verizon customers are no longer able to download many popular tethering apps in the Android Market, a move that hasn't sat well with many users. A group called Free Press has decided to try and do something about it, though, filing a complaint (PDF link) with the FCC which claims that Verizon's request for Google to block access to tethering apps violates the rules put in place by the FCC for licensing the 700MHz spectrum used by Verizon's LTE network. Free Press believes that Verizon's restrictions are in conflict with the FCC's requirement that customers should be able to use any device or application that they choose with the 700MHz spectrum. The organization also argues that removing apps from the Market limits and restricts their distribution and that carriers have an interest in eliminating free or low-cost tethering apps because the operators offer their own, generally more expensive tethering services. Free Press Policy Counsel Aparna Sridhar issued this statement on the matter:
"Verizon’s conduct is bad for the public and bad for innovation. It also appears to be illegal under the FCC’s rules that govern Verizon’s LTE network. Users pay through the nose for Verizon’s LTE service, and having done so, they should be able to use their connections as they see fit. Instead, Verizon’s approach is to sell you broadband but then put up roadblocks to control your use of it.”
Verizon spokesman Jeffery Nelson today responded to Free Press's complaint, saying that his carrier isn't blocking apps in the Android Market. Nelson said that developers need to follow their app store agreements and that "there are ways to report and point out non-compliance - for example apps that are essentially network work-arounds. Google can then decide what action to take." When it comes to the FCC's requirements on 700MHz spectrum use, Nelson said that it continues to adhere to the rules put in place and that it has helped third parties get devices and apps onto its LTE network and will continue doing so going forward.
It's not surprising that someone came forward to try and fight the decision to make Android tethering apps unavailable, although it's still a tad too early to tell whether or not the complaint will have any effect on the situation. That said, if you're expecting Verizon to do a complete 180 and allow its customers to tether to their heart's content using apps from the Market, well, you probably shouldn't hold your breath. What do you all think of Free Press's complaint? Does the organization make a good argument?