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Net Neutrality Scholar Barbara van Schewick Urges FCC to Investigate Verizon's Blocking of Google Wallet

Source: Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School

Net neutrality scholar files letter charging that the blocking threatens innovation and investment in mobile payments and apps

STANFORD, Calif.,  December 19, 2011— Barbara van Schewick, professor of law and (by courtesy) electrical engineering  at Stanford University, and faculty director of the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, today filed a letter with the Federal Communications Commission urging it to investigate Verizon Wireless for blocking Google Wallet on Verizon’s new Galaxy Nexus smartphone.

According to van Schewick, Verizon’s action appears to violate FCC license-conditions on Verizon’s LTE spectrum that forbid Verizon to block applications or devices. Google Wallet is a mobile payments application based on near-field communications technology that includes payments, customer loyalty, and mobile deals. Verizon, van Schewick says, has the anticompetitive incentive to violate its license conditions and block Google Wallet because it has partnered with AT&T and T-Mobile to launch a competing mobile payment service called ISIS, expected next year. And she says, there are no technical justifications for Verizon’s behavior, as Google Wallet has been operating without incident on an earlier version of the Galaxy Nexus offered by Sprint.

The following statement may be attributed to Professor Barbara van Schewick:

“Verizon’s behavior looks like an attempt to stall a competing mobile payment application until Verizon’s own application is launched. Verizon’s action hurts the more than 107 million Verizon Wireless customers who are unable to use the very first mobile payment and mobile-deals technology based on near-field communication that comes to market. Verizon’s behavior also threatens competition and innovation in the emerging market for mobile payments. If Sprint, the nation’s third largest wireless carrier, remains the only carrier that supports Google Wallet, Google Wallet will be dead upon arrival.”

“The Federal Communications Commission needs to act swiftly. It must investigate whether Verizon is violating openness conditions for the “700 MHz band” in which its 4G LTE network operates. The Commission adopted these conditions to ensure that at least one part of the spectrum remained open for mobile applications and devices. Earlier this year, Verizon violated the license-conditions by blocking tethering applications. The FCC has yet to act. Now Verizon is blocking Google Wallet. Mobile innovators and investors are already concerned about the lack of strong network neutrality rules for mobile Internet access. If Google, one of the nation’s largest corporations, can be blocked by the one carrier that is subject to strong openness conditions, every mobile innovator and investor in the country will know that they are at the mercy of the carriers.”

A blog post summarizing the letter is available at: http://netarchitecture.org/2011/12/is-verizon-wireless-illegally-blocking-google-wallet-its-time-for-the-fcc-to-investigate.

About Barbara van Schewick

Barbara van Schewick is an Associate Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, an Associate Professor (by courtesy) of Electrical Engineering at Stanford’s Department of Electrical Engineering, and the Director of Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society.

Her book Internet Architecture and Innovation (MIT Press 2010) is considered to be the seminal work on the science, economics and policy of network neutrality. The FCC’s Open Internet Order relied heavily on her work.

In June 2011, van Schewick filed a letter with the FCC asking the Commission to open up the proceeding regarding Verizon’s blocking of tethering applications for public comment. The FCC later cited her letter in its decision to do so.

A longer bio is available at: http://netarchitecture.org/author/.

About the Center for Internet and Society

The Center for Internet and Society (CIS) is a public interest technology law and policy program at Stanford Law School and a part of Law, Science and Technology Program there. CIS brings together scholars, academics, legislators, students, programmers, security researchers, and scientists to study the interaction of new technologies and the law and to examine how the synergy between the two can either promote or harm public goods like free speech, innovation, privacy, creativity or scientific inquiry.

The Center’s homepage is at: http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu.

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For comment, contact:
Barbara van Schewick
Associate Professor of Law and, by courtesy, Electrical Engineering
Faculty Director, Center for Internet and Society Stanford Law School
650-723 8340
schewick@stanford.edu

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