Back in 2007 when AT&T, Verizon and others lobbied for valuable 700MHz spectrum, you'll recall that Google pushed hard for the spectrum to contain open access provisions. At the time, you'll also recall that if you actually bothered to look at the conditions
once crafted by the FCC, they were so packed with loopholes as to be rather useless.
Still, the conditions get brought up every few months as "proof" that Verizon has to run an open wireless network. Free Press is the latest, filing a complaint with the FCC today claiming that Verizon and AT&T's recent decision to apparently pressure Google to pull tethering applications
from the Android Marketplace violates those rules. Says the consumer group:
As a condition of Verizon's license for the C Block of the upper 700 MHz block, Verizon and similar broadband providers using the spectrum are not permitted to “deny, limit, or restrict” the ability of their customers to use the applications or devices of their choosing. Recent reports reveal that Verizon has been doing just that by asking Google to disable tethering applications in the Android Market. Tethering applications, which allow users to make their phones into mobile hot-spots, implicate both the customers' ability to use both the applications and devices of their choice.
Free Press isn't wrong, but again the "Carterfone" conditions placed on that spectrum have loopholes Verizon can use to justify any tethering-blocking decisions. As Susan Crawford pointed out when the rules were created
, all Verizon has to do is claim that tethering harms their network, and the FCC will nod dumbly and concede (all without Verizon having to provide any hard data). So while Verizon and AT&T are swimming upstream when it comes to trying to stop tethering, expecting regulators to do anything about it is probably a stretch. As we move to wireless pricing that involves one bucket of bytes for all users and devices in a family, the debate becomes irrelevant anyway.