Groups slam Verizon for blocking Google app, say tougher net neutrality needed

Two consumer advocacy groups slammed Verizon for reportedly blocking a mobile application developed by Google, saying the incident shows that the government needs to adopt tougher regulations of wireless Internet providers.

Verizon plans to block Google Wallet, a mobile payment app, on its new line of smartphones that use Google’s Android operating system, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. 

Verizon, which plans to offer its own mobile payment service, says it is still in negotiations with Google over the app.

{mosads}Consumer advocacy groups Public Knowledge and Free Press said blocking the app will hurt competition and consumers.

“Verizon shows no hesitation in using its gatekeeper position over its subscribers to restrict or block applications that compete with its own offerings,” Matt Wood, policy director for Free Press, said in a statement. “Verizon’s actions restrict consumer choice, stifle competition and kill innovation.”

Wood said the incident shows that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should fully apply its net-neutrality rules to wireless carriers. The rules, adopted by the commission late last year, prohibit Internet providers from slowing down or blocking legitimate websites, but wireless companies were mostly exempted from the rules.

“These actions illustrate yet again the grave mistake made by the FCC in failing to adopt meaningful consumer protections for mobile services in its Net Neutrality proceeding last year,” Wood said.

Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge, said the possibilities for “anti-competitive, anti-consumer behavior are fairly obvious.” He said the FCC could have prevented Verizon’s actions with tougher net-neutrality rules. 

“It is unfortunate that the Federal Communications Commission chose to give wireless Internet access a second-class status to becoming an open network,” he said. “Today’s dispute between Google and Verizon is just the type of situation that likely would not happen if it were clear that a firm ‘no discrimination’ standard were in effect for wireless services.”

Verizon, which also provides landline Internet service, has sued the FCC over the net-neutrality rules, arguing the agency overstepped its authority.


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