Sprint-affiliated net neutrality advocates falsely finger Verizon for ‘blocking’ Google app

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Verizon announced Tuesday that its newest smartphone — the Samsung Galaxy Nexus — will not carry the Google Wallet app, but “net neutrality” interest groups with deep ties to Sprint cried foul, even while Google’s own business deals with Sprint precluded it from being featured in the new Verizon smartphone.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Verizon would hold off on making the app available until hardware that can provide “the best security and experience” is available through Verizon phones to host the app.

Advocacy groups Public Knowledge and Free Press accused their longtime foe in the Capitol Hill net neutrality policy battle, Verizon, Tuesday of ” blocking” Google Wallet customers from downloading the application, and exhibiting “anti-competitive, anti-consumer” behavior.

The original AP article also reported Verizon “blocked” Google Wallet even though Google confirmed to the AP in the same article that it requested Verizon not make the wallet function available with its upcoming round of Samsung Android phones.

ZDNet reported Tuesday, however, that Google is locked into an existing exclusive business deal with Sprint that makes Google Wallet only available on through Sprint.

“This isn’t a carrier limitation, this is a Google limitation based on an existing business deal. That’s not news, that’s the way it is,” reported ZDNet.

Public Knowledge announced Monday several new members on its board of directors, two of which have deep ties to several parties involved in the current conflict.

Sprint’s ties to Public Knowledge were strengthened further when the lobby group welcomed former Sprint lobbyist Maura Colleton Corbett to its board of directors Monday. Corbett lobbied before the FCC on behalf of Sprint as recently as August in the FCC’s review of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger.

PRNewser reported in December 2010 that Corbett also represented “other telecom companies with the No Choke Points Coalition,” in addition to Sprint. No Choke Points Coalition members include — among other members — Sprint, Media Access Project, Public Knowledge and New America Foundation.

Verizon spokesman Jeffery Nelson said in a follow up statement Tuesday that accusations of Verizon blocking the app were not true.

“Recent reports that Verizon is blocking Google Wallet on our devices are false,” said Nelson. “Verizon does not block applications.”

Nelson spoke of the technical limitations, but did not address the Google-Sprint business relationship.

Google and Verizon struck a policy compromise in 2010 over “net neutrality,” which recommended the FCC rules only extend to wireline services. The FCC’s rules state that carriers cannot “block,” or otherwise censor content in a manner that would give preference to a carrier’s own preferred content. At present, wireless carriers are exempt from the FCC’s regulations.

Free Press sued the FCC in October over the rules not being strong enough; Verizon sued on the grounds that the FCC did not possess the legal authority to regulate the Internet in the way that it now does through its “net neutrality” rules.

Andrew McClaughlin, another new PK board member, is a former Google lobbyist and Obama White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer. McClaughlin is also a vice president for the social networking site, Tumblr.

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have their own payment processing partnership, ISIS. Verizon announced a partnership with PayFone in June that would supplement its offering with ISIS.

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