Perhaps you’ve heard the “great” news about how Verizon has to dish out $1.25 million to the FCC for violating the FCC’s “C Block rules,” requiring licensees of C Block spectrum to allow customers to freely use the devices and applications of their choosing. If you’re just hearing about it, let me give you the gist of things and then you’ll get to hear me rant.
Back in 2008 there was an auction held by the FCC for the rights to operate the 700 MHz frequency band in the United States. This auction brought out all the big players (sharks) in the telecommunication industry who were ready to bid their extortion money to own the airwaves. It wasn’t looking good for consumers, that is, until Google stepped in.
In an attempt to encourage Net Neutrality, the FCC had agreed to make the winner of the most coveted block of spectrum, Block C, abide by certain open-access terms, specifically:
- Open applications: Consumers should be able to download and utilize any software applications, content, or services they desire.
- Open devices: Consumers should be able to utilize a handheld communications device with whatever wireless network they prefer.
In order for these provision to take effect, the pricey reserve of $4.6 billion had to be met (I didn’t intend to rhyme, it just happened.) This is where Google stepped in, bidding the minimum $4.6 billion to ensure the open provisions become mandated, no matter who wins the bid.
Long story short, Verizon (which strongly opposed the open requirements) outbid Google and took home the grand prize — which now houses their 4G LTE network.
So, what happened next?
Verizon, the company that opposed Net Neutrality and openness, won the spectrum which required them to adhere to specific open policies (which they filed lawsuits to try and have removed), eventually went on to violate those rules (shocker) and incur an FCC investigation.
How did they violate the FCC’s rules? Well, for starters, they had third-party tethering application removed from the Android Market (what we now call Google Play). It’s the removal of these apps and Verizon’s requirement that customers wanting to tether use their service at an additional $20 per month that really got the complaints flowing.
The FCC had no choice but to investigate after formal complaints were filed, and thus landed us where we are today.
Where exactly is that?
Exactly where we started, only a few million dollars broker. What am I talking about? I’m talking about the fact that Verizon deliberately defied the rules set forth by the FCC and removed apps which allowed users to rightfully use their data from Verizon’s 4G LTE network (which resided on Block C) at no additional cost, and replaced them with one option: to pay Verizon an extra $20 a month (something I consider to be extortion).
Not only did they get away with it for over a year, but they also got to donate $1.25 million of our money to the FCC. In the year they were charging users an extra $20 for something they could have rightfully had for free, Verizon banked much more than $1.25 million. They also contrived a way to save their asses should the shit hit the fan: Introducing Shared Everything plans with free tethering included!
So when it’s all said and done with, Verizon customers (as well as the developers whose apps were removed) were bilked out of millions of dollars, only to see their money handed over to the FCC, while Verizon suffers virtually no penalty!? Isn’t that fantastic?
What do Verizon customers get? New plans that are supposed to make us feel better about being screwed over for data and the return of third party tethering apps (which is worthless at this point). But… but… we get unlimited talk and text! Of course we get unlimited amounts of the least expensive, and most underused features of a smartphone plan. If you want to use the features you really care about — like data — you have to pay a premium and are limited, capped, and bled for overages. This, of course, it how Verizon continues to make up for the billions it was forced to spend on spectrum because of Google (and you wonder why Verizon botched the Galaxy Nexus launch, delays our Android updates, and blocks Google Wallet (yea, what’s that all about?).
I guess we’re supposed to just sit here and smile? We should be happy the FCC “laid the smackdown” on Verizon? Not I, my friends, not I. I’m not happy about it one bit, and I’m not even happy with the fact that Google allows Verizon to pull such stunts (unless they’re secretly setting them up for later investigations).
So what do I have to say to Verizon and the FCC, well… let’s just say my kids are wearing earmuffs for this one.