Thursday, July 17, 2014

Verizon's New Weird Trick To Prevent Tethering

You may recall that Verizon lost a court case that forced them to allow tethering and wi-fi hotspot apps for users who do not have unlimited data. Or did it?

Here's one of the articles that describes the ruling:

Verizon, for its part, hasn't given up trying to charge for this feature. They found a loophole.

Their current strategy: comply with the letter of the law, but not the spirit.

Their new trick is a multi-pronged plan:
1. Allow users to download third party wi-fi hotspot programs in order to comply with the ruling. The ruling only forced Verizon to assert that "it no longer objects to the availability of the tethering applications to C-Block network customers”. Which, by allowing users to download such programs, they technically comply with.
2. Release Android operating system updates that are specifically customized to prevent third party wi-fi apps from actually enabling a wi-fi hotspot on the phone. These apps can be installed and run by the users, but they don't do anything.
3. Continue to charge a monthly fee for enabling the wi-fi hotspot functionality that is integrated into the Android OS, offering users a single alternative: upgrade to a [more expensive] plan that includes the hotspot function.

The only recourse for the customer: root the phone and replace the operating system, which voids any warranty the customer may have had.

Verizon doesn't have much to lose. The settlement resulted in a fine that amounted to a mere slap on the wrist. $1.25M is almost certainly less than the amount that they make annually from users duped into paying the extra fee. Any future ruling represents an insignificant risk, well worth flaunting for the ability to continue to fleece customers out of another $20 a month for data that they already pay for.

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