Tethering is using your cell phone or other Internet-enabled device as a modem, using whatever data you have left in the month to establish a wireless internet connection. This is exceptionally convenient, as the Wi-Fi in my apartment sucks (thanks, Comcast), and there isn’t a decent hotspot within ten miles. There are loads of apps out there you can download to allow your cellphone to tether, but you’ve probably never seen one. Why? Because they’ve been actively blocked and removed from the Internet. Depending on your carrier, you can instead pay an extra monthly service fee to tether your cellphone (as opposed to a free app), which is how Verizon’s been doing business for a long while now.

That ended a few days ago, when the FCC ruled that Verizon was not allowed to continue denying access to the numerous free tethering apps available online. Previously, Verizon and Google have teamed up to remove tethering apps as quickly as possible from Google Play, limiting their download to Android devices as much as possible. This isn’t just unfair, the FCC says, it’s in blatant violation of regulation, as Verizon had purchased its 700 MHz spectrum back in 2008 under the provision that they allow the free use of devices and apps on that spectrum. It’s taken four years for Verizon, the largest wireless network in the nation, to hold up its end of the deal, but they’ve also paid a $1.25 million dollar settlement. Now, they’re being forced to tell their customers that they now have free access to these apps.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile; just Verizon. And the FCC has said that it will allow Verizon to charge the $20 per month fee to customers with unlimited data plans. However, there should still be a way around this. Each Verizon customer, regardless of what plan they’ve purchased, now has undeterred access to free Android tethering apps. Considering Verizon has no way of tracking which of their customers is using those apps, free tethering should presumably be allowed for everyone. A step in the right direction? I think so.

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