THE BLOG
09/18/2013 03:47 pm ET | Updated Nov 18, 2013

Verizon, Caught Red-Handed

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Verizon is violating FCC conditions and its promise that it open up its high-speed LTE network to any device.

The company has now on multiple occasions refused to connect my Google Nexus 7 LTE tablet, though the device was publicized widely as working on Verizon and though I have confirmed that it can work on its network. On Twitter, its support spokesman said in response to my repeated inquiries over four days:

Verizon is thus clearly violating FCC regulations governing its acquisition of the spectrum that enables its LTE service, which require it to open to *all* devices. To quote from the regulations (my emphasis):

(b) Use of devices and applications. Licensees offering service on spectrum subject to this section shall not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of their customers to use the devices and applications of their choice on the licensee's C Block network, except:
(1) Insofar as such use would not be compliant with published technical standards reasonably necessary for the management or protection of the licensee's network, or
(2) As required to comply with statute or applicable government regulation.

Verizon also violates its promise not to violate that requirement. On May 7, 2008, Ars Technica quotes Verizon VP Jim Gerace saying on the company's public policy blog:

"Verizon Wireless--and all the other participants in the recent 700 MHz spectrum auction--understood the FCC's rules for using that spectrum in advance of the auction. Of course we'll abide by those rules."

I attempted to read the rest of Gerace's blog post but Verizon has erased years of its posts there and the Wayback Machine does not have a cache from that date.

This promise came in response to a tough letter from Google at the time demanding that Verizon abide by the rule. Said Google: "The Commission must ensure that Verizon understands that this license obligation means what it says: Any Apps, Any Devices."

And no wonder, for Google anticipated precisely this situation when it entered the spectrum auction Verizon won and insisted then on open access as an FCC condition of the sale: Google ended up marketing an unlocked device made to run on Verizon's LTE network and now Verizon refuses to honor its promise to abide by the rules of its auction to do so.

On Twitter and Google+, many have asked why I bother, why I don't just install the T-Mobile SIM and month's free access that came with the Nexus 7 LTE. A few reasons: First, I am stuck with a shared-data plan on Verizon thanks to my locked (how could you, Google?!) Chromebook Pixel with LTE and my family's Verizon iPads. Second, adding the Nexus 7 to my shared-data plan will cost me only $10 more a month, less than I'll play if I support it solo on another carrier's network. Third, this is a matter of principle. I will bring my Dell Hell experience to bear and fight for what is right.

Some also caution that on the Verizon network, my Nexus 7 will connect only if LTE is available; it will not be able to fail down to slower speeds as it could on other networks. True; that is how my Chromebook Pixel works and I am willing to live with the limitation for the price.

It has also been pointed out to me across social media that one can take a Verizon SIM from another LTE device, put it in the Nexus 7, and it will work. Only problems are, I don't have such a SIM and if I did I'd need to use it in that other device. But this does prove -- and I have done it myself -- that the Nexus 7 *does* work on Verizon's network.

So this is not a matter of anything Verizon cannot do. This is a matter of what Verizon will not do. And that is what makes this a violation of FCC regulations and Verizon's assurances.

I have frequently asked Verizon for its help on Twitter and Google+ and in its store and via phone to Verizon Wireless via a representative in that store; you see the net of that above: a smart-assed refusal to take my money. I tried many avenues before writing this post.

After first posting this on my blog, Verizon's head of PR finally got back to me and pointed me to instruction for how to certify a device on Verizon's network. But that is not openness. The promise is that I can take any device that is sold -- and approved by the FCC according to open standards -- and use it on Verizon's network. But Verizon won't let me.

I have since filed a formal complaint with the FCC, which more than a year ago fined Verizon $1.25 million in a consent decree brought after the company made Google take down apps that would have allowed customers to tether their phones' internet access to other devices. This, too, violated the FCC's rules about openness Verizon's LTE spectrum. Verizon promised it wouldn't do it again. Heh.