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FCC Pressured to Investigate Google Wallet

The FCC is being asked to investigate if Verizon is violating the conditions of its purchase of spectrum at an FCC auction, the kind of condition that would not have been allowed in the verions of spectrum auction legislation that was cut from the payroll tax cut bill over the weekend. Verizon has denied the allegation.

In a Dec. 19 letter to the commission, Barbara van Schewick, a Stanford law professor and author argued that reports Verizon Wireless' new Android-based phone did not support the Google Wallet mobile payment application violated the open devices and applications conditions the FCC put on its purchase of C-block spectrum in the 700 MHz auction.

Verizon has denied the charge that it is blocking Google Wallet, instead saying that unlike other applications that access the existing operating system on the phone, it requires new hardware. She concedes that there is uncertainty about the issue, and is asking the FCC to investigate and "send a signal" that openness conditions will be enforced. 

"While it seems that Verizon's behavior towards Google Wallet is violating the openness conditions of its license," she says, arguing that the FCC's conditions cover Verizon even if the hardware argument is correct. "We don't know enough about what is going on to make this determination with certainty."

Free Press last week called for an investigation as well, saying it echoes Verizon's restrictions on tethering that Free Press filed a formal complaint over last year, alleging it violated those C block auction conditions. Public Knowledge, also unhappy with Verizon's stand on Google Wallet, said it was the kind of issue that could have been resolved if the FCC had applied clear nondiscrimination standards to wireless when it applied them to wired in its network neutrality rules.

The FCC said that wireless broadband was a sufficiently different service to require a different legislative approach, while promising to monitor the marketplace and adjust that call if necessary.