UC Law SF Communications and Entertainment Journal


Matthew Tonner


This note investigates the regulation of mobile broadband using tethering applications as an example of how to apply net neutrality rules. Part II looks at the recent history of the FCC Open Internet regulations and the rapid advances in the speed, capabilities, and prevalence of mobile broadband as a primary means of Internet access. Part III discusses the 2012 settlement reached between Verizon and the FCC over Verizon's request that Google remove tethering apps from the Android Store. Following that, Part IV assesses the merits of the FCC's current approach to enforcing net neutrality policy via contractual provisions attached to the sale of blocks of the wireless spectrum at auction. Using the contrasting examples of iTether and the FCCVerizon settlement, this note will argue that the current regulatory regime is ineffective because: (a) the FCC can only control blocking of mobile tethering apps through providers subject to wireless spectrum licensing terms (which state that licensees may not block apps); (b) in most cases, platform designers (e.g. Apple and Google), not providers, do the actual blocking by pulling tethering apps from their stores; and (c) therefore, the FCC cannot control the blocking of tethering apps in most cases.