FCC Tells Verizon It Can’t Block Tethering Apps

Verizon isn’t allowed to block tethering apps anymore, thanks to the FCC.

According to GigaOm, Verizon has to tell Google to allow tethering apps in the Google Play Store on Verizon phones once again. The ruling comes from an agreement Verizon made when it bought a block of 700 MHz from the FCC back in 2008. As part of that agreement, Verizon has to allow open access on its network.

The FCC ruled that Verizon has to let all users on tiered data plans use tethering apps and the carrier can’t charge them the extra $20 it does now. The carrier can still charge the extra fee to users on unlimited plans. There’s no way for Verizon to find out which users are using the tethering apps, however, so almost any user can likely use the apps without much consequence.

As part of the FCC ruling, Verizon must also pay a fine of $1.25 million, which isn’t much to the carrier, but it’s something.

Unfortunately, the FCC can’t apply the same rules to AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Only Verizon purchased 700 MHz in the C Block that came with the open network rules. That means Verizon users get cheaper mobile hotspots than other carriers, but those users still have to pay Verizon’s higher data prices for the privilege.

This FCC ruling is good news for Verizon Android users who will now have the chance to use apps like PDANet or Wireless Tether to tether their devices. We’re not sure if this ruling also applies to the built-in tethering apps in every mobile OS, but if it doesn’t, that means iPhone users will miss out.

Apple removes all tethering apps from the App Store already, leaving the official method in the Settings app the only way to tether an iPhone without jailbreaking. We hope this means free tethering for all Verizon users so iPhone users aren’t left out in the cold, but it looks like that’s exactly what’s going to happen.