ISP gatekeeping is not hypothetical.

To take away robust, bright-line Open Internet protections, the Federal Communications Commission is claiming customer harm by Internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon is "hypothetical" and ignoring evidence that shows otherwise.

Verizon blocked hurricane victims' access to emergency information.

After Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria took down cellular networks, many Americans couldn't access life-saving information because Verizon blocked FM radio to push more expensive cellular data plans on customers:

Virtually all smartphones are manufactured with hardware capable of receiving free FM radio signals. However, one major U.S. wireless carrier - Verizon - blocks this feature that can save consumers battery life and data charges, while also providing a critical lifeline during times of emergency.

HTC included FM radio support in its One M9 smartphones, but Verizon shipped a different software load that "purposefully blocks" FM radio:

It has recently been determined that the newly released successor model, the HTC One M9, is being shipped by Verizon with a different software load, which purposefully blocks the user accessing the device's FM radio capability via a downloaded app.

The FM radio support HTC included in its One M8 smartphones was left enabled by all carriers, including Verizon … at first. Verizon blocked HTC from preloading its first-party FM radio app (and stripped any mention of FM radio from the manuals), but customers could still use third-party FM radio apps like NextRadio … until Verizon pushed a software update to retroactively block them:

Typically, device manufacturers do not include FM support unless the wireless carrier requests it. Sprint and AT&T have done this.

HTC is an exception. HTC includes FM support in several of their devices regardless of wireless carrier.…

Unfortunately, when Verizon pushed the Marshmallow update to their M8 phones, they appear to have removed the FM hardware API, so NextRadio is no longer able to control the FM receiver chip. Several other carriers also sell the M8, and have also updated them to Android Marshmallow. NextRadio still works on the M8 sold through all carriers except Verizon.

The FM API can't be included in the NextRadio app, and it can't be added back once it has been removed. So there is no way to restore NextRadio support to Verizon's M8s.

Similarly, Verizon blocked FM radio on other smartphones, but after I filed a formal complaint in 2016, the carrier pushed a software update that re-enabled FM radio on Samsung's Galaxy S7, didn't disable FM radio on LG's G6, and removed from its Web site the blatant lie that device manufacturers didn't "choose to include" FM radio chips. (Actually, device manufacturers included FM radio chips in their devices, but Verizon chose to disable them.)

However, access to emergency information remains blocked on HTC's One M7/M8/M9, Samsung's Galaxy S5/S6, LG's G4/G5/V20, and other smartphones that went through Verizon's "certification" process.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called out Apple (which is not an ISP) but neglected to call out Verizon and claimed he'd have to look at whether the Commission's openness rules apply to ISPs like Verizon. They do: Sections 8.5 (the Open Internet "no blocking" rule) and 27.16(e) ("No licensee may disable features on handsets it provides to customers …") of the Commission's rules clearly apply to Verizon, and Congress specified "promoting safety of life and property through the use of wire and radio communication" as a purpose of the Communications Act.

Verizon and AT&T disable and lock Apple SIMs.

Verizon disables Apple SIMs embedded in iPads:

Once again, though, while Apple is trying to give users easy built-in options, not all service providers are keen on the notion.

T-Mobile and Sprint are fully supporting the built-in Apple SIM feature. AT&T, however, will tie the Apple SIM to its network if you buy your iPad at one of its retail stores. Verizon, meanwhile, will require a separate SIM card and disable the built-in embedded Apple SIM on the iPads it sells.…

The ability to choose among multiple carriers from a single device is not unique to Apple, but it is definitely not the norm in the U.S., where carriers continue to play a big role and many devices are sold within the providers' retail stores.

Apple and others would love to see a world in which customers could dynamically choose among providers, while the cellular carriers naturally prefer that customers activate on a single network and stay on that carrier for the life of the device.

AT&T locks Apple SIMs:

AT&T did not explain why it opted to lock the SIM card to its network, however, with the spokesperson saying "it's just simply the way we've chosen to do it."

The big four wireless carriers are exploiting "certification" processes.

Verizon is making Samsung Cloud, Find My Mobile, and other competitors to Verizon-backed services "not available" to customers. The carrier is blocking Samsung Cloud because it competes against Verizon's inferior service:

For example, the Verizon Galaxy Note 7 doesn't include Samsung Cloud at all. What is Samsung Cloud? Oh, just Samsung's new cloud backup service introduced with the Note 7 that offers a free 15GB of cloud space to store contacts, calendar info, Samsung Notes, Internet (bookmarks, saved pages, etc.), keyboard data, and a gallery backup for photos, videos, and stories. If you are a Samsung lifer, this Cloud service will certainly come in handy as you jump from one Samsung phone to the next or if you ever need to factory reset the one you currently have.

Instead, Verizon has replaced this new service with their own Verizon Cloud that only offers 5GB of storage for free. It's also a third party app and not baked into the system like Samsung Cloud is. As you can see below, there is no section for Samsung Cloud in the backup and reset area of the phone on Verizon. Since Samsung Cloud isn't a 3rd party app at this time, I just simply cannot use it because Verizon decided they didn't want me to and Samsung accepted that idea.

Verizon blocked Samsung Pay, a competitor to Android Pay, because Verizon gets a cut of revenue from a pay-to-play arrangement with Google. Even though Verizon claimed, "We're not restricting any applications because we're not looking at them," the carrier insisted that it was in the process of "evaluating" Samsung Pay and that the application just needed to clear the "extensive testing" of Verizon's "certification" process; however, that was a lie. Samsung confirmed Verizon blocked Samsung Pay over "economics":

A Samsung Pay executive said this summer at a press briefing that the holdup with Verizon was over "economics," but declined to comment further.

After Samsung submitted to a "partnership" with Verizon, the carrier stopped blocking Samsung Pay outright but continues to block Samsung from preloading Samsung Pay. Samsung confirmed Verizon "barred including Samsung's browser and Samsung Pay out of the box" and demanded the apps (and any mention in the manuals) be removed.

Ironically, before backing Android Pay, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon had blocked Google Wallet because they were backing Isis. Verizon claimed technical reasons for blocking Google Wallet but accidentally admitted Verizon wouldn't permit Google to make the app available to customers without "commercial discussions."

Verizon claimed its "certification" process would only test network connectivity, generally take between four and six weeks, be "very reasonable" for at-home tinkerers to afford, and not be "a sham":

If somebody has the technical capability of building a device on a breadboard and they want to bring it to be tested, the philosophy of this program says "Have at it!" If it is tested and passes, it can get on the network. Does it make it hard to be the small guy on the block? Not now, with availability of components, etc. The provider of the device would have some fee that they would pay. I think it's going to be surprisingly reasonable - it's not gonna have many many zeroes on the back. They will be very reasonable fees for professional services rendered.

However, for NextBit, a startup smartphone maker, the toll for reaching customers was millions of dollars:

"Because the direct-to-consumer [model] is kinda growing pretty quickly, what you're having is the existing business model where you as a [manufacturer] sell to the carrier as opposed to us as people is fundamentally broken," Croyle said. "The cost to go through the carrier lab, the staff to man them … and at the end of the day, the consumer gets a bunch of bloatware."

The CEO of another small company confirmed the same experience with carrier "certification" processes to Walt Mossberg:

Why should they be able to dictate certain hardware and software features (like bloatware apps for carrier services) to weaker or more pliable manufacturers (pretty much every manufacturer not named Apple)?

Why, in an era when networks are well understood and most components standardized, should handset makers be required to undergo onerous "certification" processes that allow carriers to demand changes to the design of their devices if they want to use them on the network? One small-company American tech CEO told me the other day that it will cost him more to clear "certification" processes at the four big U.S. carriers than to build and sell the first major production run of a new handset he's planning to launch.

To promote its 2016 "Better Matters" advertising campaign, Verizon invited press to its New Jersey lab and claimed its extensive testing "makes sure the batteries won't explode." Ironically, Verizon's "certification" process succeeded in protecting Verizon Cloud and Android Pay against competition from Samsung Cloud and Samsung Pay but failed to protect customers from exploding batteries.

Verizon is blocking Samsung from integrating protection against spam and scam calls.

Verizon charges an additional $3/month to block robocalls, so the carrier is blocking Samsung from integrating protection against spam and scam calls into its Galaxy S7/Note7/S8/Note8 smartphones:

The feature will be available to users in 27 countries, including the U.S., where all carriers will support the integration except Verizon.

Verizon crippled Skype.

To prevent customers on tiered calling plans from saving money, Verizon blocked calling over Wi-Fi and counted Skype calls as voice minutes:

But this isn't Skype like you'll find on an iPhone, Symbian phone or computer. Verizon's brand of Skype, which rolled out to BlackBerries and Android phones on their network in March, uses the smartphone's voice line to make calls rather than a data connection. When you use Skype to call a domestic phone number, you incur monthly minutes on Verizon just like a normal call. What's the point?…

Compared to the normal Smartphone user's version of Skype, this is almost completely useless. Even worse, if you even have Wifi enabled, Skype won't open on a Verizon phone. That means you have to pretty much kill the Wifi use on your phone if you want to use Skype.

All of this is forgivable. This is Verizon after all. They make the rules. If you want to play on Verizon's network, you play by their rules, which aren't going to be consumer friendly in any way, shape or form.

The big four wireless carriers blocked GPS apps created without their permission.

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon partnered with Telenav, so they blocked GPS access to competing applications on BlackBerry devices:

The BlackBerry 8830 smartphone as released by Verizon has had this "full" GPS capability disabled at a software level. Verizon has indicated that they plan to release their own proprietary GPS mapping solution at a later time; possibly VZ Navigator. AT&T and T-Mobile have both taken similar routes with their 8800 series handhelds; locking out GPS access for 3rd party programs and only enabling access to the built-in receiver to the TeleNav program that they sell themselves.

Windows Mobile devices:

Why is GPS locked down? Well, so that only one program on your device can access it. It's known by several names: VZ Navigator, AT&T Navigation, Sprint Navigation. They're all the same program, though, TeleNav. By locking down GPS to only work with TeleNav, the carriers (and TeleNav, we suspect) are trying to force users into paying the monthly fee for Telenav instead of using free alternatives.

And Palm devices:

Assisted GPS, the quickest way to get a fairly accurate fix, is (probably deliberately) limited so that it can only work with Verizon's for-pay Navigation software. When users don't have or wish to pay the $10/month for VZ Navigator, they must still launch the app as far as the splash screen (either manually or via James Harris' excellent GPS Fix app and patch) in order to wake the GPS for other location-enabled apps (Foursquare, Minimap, Twitter clients, Navit, YPMobile, etc.).… Mr. Simon also confirmed the VZ Navigator workaround, but stated that it was a "hole" that Verizon Wireless intended to close.

Verizon admitted as much:

Although the spokesperson stated that "we do not intend to have a monopoly on GPS with Navigator for our devices," she admitted that Verizon generally disables support for plain, old, standalone GPS in the smartphones that it uses. That effectively locks out GPS programs created without Verizon's participation.

Verizon threatened RIM over tolls for Web browsing and instant messaging.

Verizon threatened to block BlackBerry devices after Research in Motion let customers use Web browsing and instant messaging applications without paying additional application-specific tolls to Verizon:

The unique connection gave RIM a back door to sneak in services carriers wouldn't allow. In the mid-2000s RIM began shipping BlackBerrys secretly loaded with sleeper applications. Carriers and customers had no idea the applications existed until RIM sent an alert to BlackBerry users about a software upgrade. Hidden within the digital transmission was a file that unlocked the applications on the device—a Web browser and links to popular instant messaging services.… Verizon threatened to pull BlackBerry from all retail channels. —Jacquie McNish, Sean Silcoff; Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry; New York, NY; Flatiron Books, 2015, p. 114

Verizon and Sprint disabled Bluetooth and USB features.

To block customers from transferring pictures without paying additional tolls, Verizon disabled Bluetooth and USB features Motorola built into its v710 phone and claimed crippling the features was a "fraud prevention" tactic:

But Verizon disabled the phone's Bluetooth file-transfer function, so you can't wirelessly transfer photos to your PC without using the carrier's for-pay Pix Messaging service. Verizon also disabled the built-in Bluetooth Serial Port function, so you have to buy a $39.99 USB cable to sync the phone with your PC.… But even with the USB cable, you can't get photos off the phone or transfer files between the phone and your PC. Verizon says that crippling Bluetooth implementation is a "fraud prevention" tactic to prevent strangers from sending unsolicited text messages to your phone. Whatever.

In an interview with computer security expert Jonathan Zdziarski, Verizon continued to allege the existence of a vague "security issue" but accidentally admitted that leaving features enabled doesn't work with Verizon's business model:

Verizon does business unlike any other carrier, and we make no apologies for that.… [Those features] don't work with our business model. Every customer is certainly entitled to their own feelings.

After customers sued, Verizon acknowledged its power as gatekeeper:

"It's always the carrier's decision how a phone will reach the market and what form it will take," said Brenda Raney, the spokeswoman.

And Verizon had decided it wasn't willing to support allowing customers to transfer pictures for free using Bluetooth:

"There are myriad reasons why a wireless operator would provide a certain level of service or of the Bluetooth profile, such as what their network will support, what they are willing to support as a business, as well as contractual agreements."

"There are myriad factors that can affect the decisions by a carrier about what levels will be a free experience or paid for," Buddendeck said. "Nobody ever said Bluetooth would always be cost-free."

Eventually, Verizon paid $12.2 million to settle with the plaintiffs. However, Verizon (and Sprint) continued to "request" that device providers disable features:

IMPORTANT NOTE: This downloadable software is fully supported for Cingular and T-Mobile customers. However, portions of this software's functionality have been disabled for Verizon or Nextel customers, so Motorola Phone Tools will not work fully with phones using those carriers. If you are a Verizon customer, all multimedia and internet connection features in this software will be disabled due to carrier request.

Again, Verizon took away Bluetooth and USB features to compel customers to buy (from the carrier) "approved" ringtones that have been "optimized for use on the Verizon Wireless network":

Can I download ringtones from other websites directly to my phone?

No. The ringtone apps offered through Media Center have approved tones that have been optimized for use on the Verizon Wireless network.

For devices like the Palm Treo 700w, Verizon disabled built-in tethering capabilities and charged $60/month to re-enable them. The carrier alleged that these devices didn't meet unspecified "requirements" but refused to provide evidence, claiming that such information is "proprietary":

According to Verizon, the Treo doesn't currently meet requirements they specify for their network.… He said that the currently-sold V CAST phones do not properly interact with their network when used as a modem, but refused to cite examples, claiming that such information is proprietary.