More on AT&T's war on Jailbreak tethering

Last night word broke that AT&T was sending SMS messages and email to customers who didn't have tethering plans but AT&T suspected were tethering via Jailbreak apps like MyWi. In their messages, AT&T offers 3 choices:

  1. Stop tethering
  2. Voluntarily change to a paid tethering plan (and lose unlimited data if you were grandfathers in)
  3. Be forcibly changed to a paid tethering plan by AT&T (and lose unlimited data)

It's still uncertain if and how AT&T knows if a customer is tethering via Jailbreak. Theories include everything from deep packet inspection to use of WAP vs. ISP pipes to counting TTL numbers, to "they're bluffing" and simply targeting high bandwidth users.

Regardless, AT&T seems fairly serious about it this time. We heard from one reader who called in and tried to explain away high data usage on Netflix and other streaming media services, only to be told the AT&T tethering team would look into.

Tethering team?

While AT&T is able to charge what they want for any services they offer, it hits incredible unfairness buttons in consumers when they feel they're being charged double to use the same bits. With unlimited plans it's somewhat understandable -- AT&T's network would likely collapse in a puddle if everyone tethered all the data they could. With a 2GB plan, however, bits should be bits. How about this?

  1. Offer tethering for free on the 2GB plan
  2. Offer an extra 2GB for $15.
  3. Offer reasonable overage charges beyond that.

It lets bits be bits, it offers a fair way for power users to get more data, and it provides fair protection from the heaviest 1% of users who would put a huge hurt on the network.

(Disclosure: I'm on Rogers, they've so far offered tethering for free on any account with 1GB - 6GB of data a month since iOS 3, and personal hotspot is now free as well since iOS 4.3.)

Have you spoken with AT&T and their tethering team yet? What's your situation right now?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

More on AT&T's war on Jailbreak tethering


If I get the letter / e-mail / text from at&t, I will just downgrade my data plan to the minimum allowed for iPhone (don't know what that is at the moment), and take my data to something like Clear. $45 / month, 4G (or sometihng like 4G) and truely unlimited.
Between the $30 "unliminted" data plan on at&t, plus the tethering plans, I will actually save money going with
Screw at&t

Plus on Clear, for $45 unlimitied, I can hook up my iPhone, iPad, laptop, my friends laptop. all for the same price.
Buy stock in Clear. lol and no, I am not a stockholder (yet ..)

Just checked.
I can go down to
DataPlus 200 MB for iPhone $15 / month. So, with the $45 for Clear, at $60, STILL cheaper than at&t and no cap on data. Plus my friend has gotten anywhere from 2Mb - 5Mb downstream. Chicago he was getting 5Mb down.
Not too shabby.
I understand that $60 / month is expensive, but to pay cheaper and screw at&t, it would be sweet.
Again if you are using more than 4Gb / month which is at&t cap, then you should investigate this option. and 4Gb isn't alot when you are streaming video / audio ALOT during the month.
Clear is just one option, I am not married to it. There are others out there.

Thanks for the heads up. It is just a suggestion. There are others out there. Just citing altrenatives in case at&t really takes out the pitch forks and torches. lol

I'm sorry (and to everyone else). I wasn't talking abuot the at home Wifi. I am talking portable WiFi (which is what you really ahve when u use your iPhone as a WiFi hotspot).
I am sure the throttling would still be an issue on your tower whether u r using the at home or portable WiFi hotspot.
I am just looking for an alternative to take with me whereever I am and have WiFi available. At home I would never using it (since I am lucky enough to have FIOS).

What is Clear's coverage like? What are their speeds like nationwide?
When AT&T were charging a tethering fee and not even giving extra bandwidth with the fee I voted with my wallet and went looking for a cheap MiFi service. I tried Clear but they do not offer service in my area at all (they refuse to sell to me based on my location). I ended up with a Virgin Mobile Prepay MiFi that uses Sprint's network that offered unlimited usage for $40/month. But guess what? Several months down the line they canned the unlimited offer and it is now capped at 5GB for the same price. Since I was not on contract I didn't have any say. Also in my experience, unless I had full signal on their EvDO network I basically didn't get any data transfer and at best only got about 1Mb/s down and 0.2Mb/s up if I was lucky and the MiFi was in the correct location and it was a full moon. You often get what you pay for...

That sounds great, but be very cautious of Clear. I was with them for a few months but dropped them after they admitted to throttling my network speed to as low as 0.25 Mbps. The worst part was that it wasn't because of my data usage, which was average. Rather, it was because of extremely high data usage in the particular towers that I most often connected to. Essentially, I was being punished because of other peoples' excessive usage, but I was still paying the same price. That didn't fly with me, so we dropped them.

If I'm forced to give up my unlimited data plan, I will buy out the contract, sell my phone and go to Verizon. I will not be bullied by AT&T, All there is to it. I've been with them since 2006 and if this is how they do business, then screw them.

Stealing? What're you smokin?
Last time I checked, you pay for your data, either your 200Mb or 2Gb plan, or you're unlimited, regardless you're paying for it, its not like you're going over any sort of allotted data to your account, you're just choosing to use it in another way than on your iDevice.

Actually, Verizon has unlimited data 29.99 a month for all smart phones. It wont be that way forever though. But you would be locked in, including unlimited 4G! Not the extra $10 for Sprint.

I wasn't even going to try for a refund. I look at it this way...I'll keep using it (from work, during my lunch hour) and hope to get a month out of it. That's the break-even point for what at&t would have charged me. I'd rather give the money to a developer as a donation than give it to "the man"! :)

I get it if you're using 10/20GB a month, but as I mentioned in a similar thread, I have a problem paying an extra $15 a month when I barely use 2GB per month. Offer me a 4GB tethering plan for the $30 that I already pay for unlimited, and I won't hesitate to jump on that.

Yeah, I'm in this boat too. I tether only occasionally to get my new iPad online when I've not otherwise got WiFi access for it- I use pretty close to 2GB a month and occasionally go over, which is why I've kept the unlimited plan. I'd be hard pressed to go over 3-4GB though- if I could legally tether for what I pay now or just a few $ more (think it's still highway robbery, but I'm not unwilling to compromise in hopes they'll use the $ to improve the network. Haahahahaa.) I'd settle for a 4GB w/tethering plan.

my thoughts exactly. you have to be tethering alot to rack up that kind of data. i use mywi when im on the go and i need it, like when at school since they dont offer wifi, and i dont want to use their computers. i was surprised byhow little data using a computer to surf the web actually uses. most my data is still from netflix, and general surfing on the iphone itself. i am yet to recieve the letter, however i would be pretty irritated if i did. i think their just assuming with the power users using 10g and close to that

That might have been true in the past. But I think many people are realizing that buying a iPad with Wifi only is the way to go. And to tether to their phones make sense. So, things change. And I think that at&t sees the writing on the wall. Hence the crackdown.

I agree with you. I'm still on the unlimited and rarely go over 1GB. But I love that I have the option to if I really needed... Plus I dont agree with having to pay extra to use what I'm already paying for. Limit me to something reasonable (2-3GB) for the same price I'm paying and I will gladly sign up.

AT&T really just needs to invest in making their network better. Do they honestly expect us to believe that the 2% of people who have unlimited plans that tether are killing their network???? Think about that for a second. There's only so much bandwidth a single 3G phone has for starters, and they have it calculated by bandwidth how much it costs for each customer to be utilizing their connection all the time, which in turn determines their cost for the service per customer. If they don't calculate it that way then they seriously f***** up.
It's straight up inexcusable for a provider to behave this way. If they offered tethering for another $2-$5/month (on unlimited plans too) I bet everyone and their grandmother would buy a tethering plan and the sheer volume of customers that purchase it would make the company profits. The big reason no one wants a tethering plan is because: a. it's too expensive, and b. it's double taxation/charging.
So, when AT&T decides to get real, lower the price of tethering so everyone will buy it, or just leave those alone that are daring enough to do it now all will be fine.
To the exec that said "we want to make it fair for our customers" I say this to you: YOU DON'T MAKE IT FAIR WHEN YOU TAKE AWAY A CHOICE WE ONCE HAD. If having sanctioned tethering means giving up the unlimited plan . . . well that's a no-go. C'mon AT&T you're going to have to do better than that.
Like I said, if everyone had tethering because you made it a small upcharge I think you would be miles, and miles ahead. Plus it would draw a huge customer base from other carriers that you didn't have before. AT&T does like making money . . . don't they? Because right now it doesn't look that way.

I think you are oversimplifying AT&T's costs. It usually costs billions to upgrade a nationwide infrastructure like what AT&T has and it can't be done overnight because they ultimately have limited resources and there are all sorts of factors to include such as planning permissions, community relations etc.
It is not just a case of upgrading the data backhaul to each cell tower. A cell tower can only support so many users and if there is a sudden increase of usage on a particular tower it will mean degraded service for everyone else on the same tower. In that case AT&T may have to look into reworking their coverage for the area which will probably mean installing new towers. Cell towers are also often located relatively remotely due to NIMBY etc (admittedly they are ugly) so getting power and high speed data out to them can be exceedingly expensive. Microwave links are not always possible either due to terrain or ground clutter.
As for the cost structure, any consumer grade internet connection is going to be a contended service in order to be offered at some sort of affordable price. So that 'unlimited' claim by AT&T and every other ISP is just marketing and it comes down to playing a game with statistics, i.e. what price point should they use to cover existing maintenance & debt costs plus planned future upgrade costs vs. how many users are going to be on the network and what their average data usage is going to be like. No one expected the iPhone to be so popular and AT&T also do not seem to have much say these days about what goes into the App Store such as video streaming services like Netflix so data usage has gone through the roof.
I also do not think it is completely fair to criticize by comparing any network with anyone else's, especially in different countries, as the cost base could be wildly different. The US is probably one of the most expensive countries in the world to operate a nationwide infrastructure due to how spread out the population is while expecting coverage everywhere. AT&T also has far more iPhone users than any other network and stats have shown that iPhone users use their phones much more than other brands. Also while Verizon and Sprint may have larger 3G coverage and/or more data users in total, their 3G speeds are much less than AT&Ts.
So yeah it sucks that they charge so much, but I'd rather have a more reliable, fast network than one that is free but slow as molasses and even less reliable (although it has been great in my area).

That was a very informed post.
On a side note though... if I were to get a letter like that from them (I rarely tether, but sometimes do) I would drop AT&T and go to Verizon. Just so I can show them my opinion with my money. I've been with them for a very long time. They'd loose a customer since 2003, and they'd be forfeiting all the money I'd give them over the course of another 8 years. It would be very expensive for them to require me to pay again for the data I'm already paying once for.
Assuming I would be with them for another 10 years, sending me a letter like that would cost them over $15,000.

11 million of AT&Ts 14 million iPhone customers are on the unlimited plan. It takes about 540 days to get FCC approval actually erect a tower. A little less time if they are just hanging antennas on buildings. I usually get between 4 and 5mb down on 3G. That could cause some damage tethered to a laptop. You can't download a 2GB operating system with an iPhone like you can a laptop.

I've used MyWi (sparingly) when I was jailbroken, and although it is very convenient when tethering becomes "necessary", it is often very slow.
I guess I just don't understand why anyone would want to tether all day, every day, to watch videos and post on Facebook, with slow MyWi while running their iPhone battery dead. Unless one really needs their computer online to quickly do something important, that isn't possible to do on their iPhone, then what is the point?
Seems like a small group of people just ruining things for others, to me.

Right, so can you see why no one wants to pay $20/month for that on top of what they're already paying for the data?
Seriously though, I rarely need to tether but admit to paying "the man" last time I did. I was at a conference for a few days, and it was cheaper to sign up, pay $0.66 a day for tethering, and cancel when the conference was over than to pay $15/day for the conference hotel's WiFi. It cost me $2 to have tetherin for the weekend. Not bad.

The "bits is bits" argument is too simplistic. That's not how businesses sell it. What do you think another utility would say if they found out you're sharing your water, electricity, cable or broadband with your neighbors?

As for eliectricity, they dno't care. They will get their money anyway. either yuo pay or your neighbor pays. Someone will get charged. Same with water.
Not really a good analogy.

Don't they? Gosh, why don't you call up them up and tell them you're sharing their service with your neighbors.

I still maintain that they don't care. the only thing they might care about is a fire hazard and regulations more than who is paying them. As I said, they get paid per MWH. Who pays it, I don't think they wouldcare. But this is a moot point (since I don't know who would give electricty to their neighbor) and still not related to the topic at hand.

That's not true in the US. Typically you pay different rates for electricity based on how much you use. The first few 100 kWh are a certain price and the rate falls off to a lower price afterwards.

I agree, webvex. Wrong is still wrong. All I'm saying is that if people weren't abusing it so much, and keeping it under a couple of gigs per month, AT&T might not even care and just look the other way. Then again, maybe not.

I'm on Rogers and could this be the first time we get the better deal? I don't think they should force a fixed plan on tethering plan on everyone. Surely if they can take the time to track who is doing it via jail break then they could establish a system where if you are using exuberant amounts of data via the tether then you get hit with a premium.

EXACTLY! The CS rep at my AT&T store excitedly told me about the "tethering plan!". "4GB for $45!" WOW! And WHY exactly would I "want" to pay $15 more a month for data that I probably won't use anyway???

My sentiments exactly, Telco's charge you more and get away with it by "giving you more than you need" but if you were to take your actual average usage and apply the price to that - it's disgusting.
Tethering should be included, but not unlimited (as a net admin i acknowledge the essence of what they're trying to do) instead, have it reflect your plan, and in the case of unlimited plans (AT&T) they could cap it somewhere in the 6GB range and then offer higher caps at a premium. Fair?

I was totally not ok with the 2gb + tethering cost = 2gb
2gb + tethering = 4gb shared
I picked it up with that change. I was using at most 800mb per month and will use tethering infrequently.
I do think tethering should be no cost, you can pay for the additional data.
and then keep unlimited tethering free.
that said, Apple needs to add in data usage by source into the OS and let me enter my billing period for "disclaimer rough" bandwidth usage reporting. I'd like to know how much bandwidth specific apps use.

Crying here is not going to get anyone anything. Writing stories on blogs won't faze them in the slightest about how it's unfair and you don't like it.
The only way AT&T will get the message is if people vote with their wallets. If you do not like the options AT&T provides then leave. That is the only thing they understand. Once you sign that contract it doesn't matter what you think, desire, feel is not right, or feel is unfair. You signed the contract, people should read the terms and understand them. When you signed your name on that dotted line you told AT&T everything was cool and what they are doing is fine.
Yes AT&T is double charging and it shouldn't be that way. But how is it their fault you didn't read the contract you signed?

I'm currently (and will stay on ) the unlimited plan. I did jailbreak my phone, in order to "unlock" it for use with sim cards in Singapore when I travel. Since there is no unlock still, I went ahead and installed 4.3...I did not have any other jailbreak apps. I also have the iPad 1 3G, with unlimited data (Yup, I'm paying for both legally).
I see two sides to this arguement, but I think I agree with AT&T.
Most seem to see it as data to be used in any way they feel fit. As if they both one of those portable wifi host devices. I see it as unlimited data to be consumed by my iPhone, and as long as it is my iPhone using the data, I should be able to do all I want.
You are not in contract for any device to be used on the AT&T data plan, as if you are buying a portable wifi hotspot device, like Clear. Your data plan is for the iPhone. this is why a household with more than one phone has a data plan per phone.
I've nothing against jailbreaking. And install MyWi if you wish, as it is ur phone. But, just because you do, does not make your activity OK.
I think AT&T would not care about you viewing 60GB of netflix content on the iPhone...unlimited is unlimited. They may not like it, but they can't do much about it, because that is the contract.
But illegally using MyWi so your laptop can, is not very cool. What is the difference if device A uses the data vs device B? Well maybe there is data you would not bother consuming on device A, that you would on device B. And again, the data contract is data for iphone. not thru it, or around it or such.
Personally, I think they should allow it as many other carriers do, but the dont, so tough. Just because we dont like a rule does not mean we can break it. Just stop doing it, or pay for it, or go with a solution that is legal. The guy above mentioned using Clear... I'd do that too, if I needed many devices to connect. I just dont have that many devices I carry around. :)

I am willing to bet the "AT&T Tethering Team" doesn't exist. It's simply a scare tactic to make someone think they are going to get knocked down to the 2GB plan. They are trying to play bad cop. I'm now on an Android phone and I have been tethering and no SMS/E-Mail yet for us Android users (that I have heard at least). I will continue using the ad-hoc program I have to tether until AT&T tells me to stop.
I have no issues paying for a service that should be paid for. I do however have an issue paying to use data that I have already paid for just because I'd rather use it on my computer versus my phone. I also think AT&T is probably targeting the people who use a lot of data per month. Just don't tether 24/7 and I'm sure all will be ok. Just remember they are a cell phone service not the FBI you won't go to jail over tethering all they will do is take away unlimited plans. Have no fear and stay strong!!

The AT&T Tethering Team are jackbooted thugs that surround your house with black helicopters in the dark of night, then kick down your door and smash through your windows.

I think that just as a matter of principle now, everyone should use every bit of the data they are entitled to on their phones. In fact, if as a protest, everyone did this simultaneously...

what exactly can att do to those who are tethering? im also on rogers so im reaping the benefit of not having tethering costs, they were going to implement them but after the backlash that ensued by customers they changed it to just more than 1Gb
if you call in and say you want to stay on your unlimited plan, what can they now do? that cant remove miwi from your what? i only see this getting worse for att when blackberry os 6.1 offers personal hotspot to its users

If that's the case, people need to sell their phones and get Verizon iPhones. If not, stay with AT&T and make the claim that you use your data on other things and tethering for you doesn't exist. There isn't a true way for them to know if your using an app to tether. I never liked AT&T and the two times I was with them made me never ever decide to choose them again. I now see why I won't go to them again still, as they want to rob you for money either way. Its a company, but it shouldn't be messed up. Why don't they take their money and make sure they fix those drop calls I got for 3 months straight when I was with them. Or maybe fix that crappy customer care. AT&T isnt bad for everyone, but it isn't the best being a service that was rated the worst out of all major carriers in the us.

This post is completely incorrect on pricing. AT&T has 5 Data Plans for iPhone. AT&T has a 4GB tethering plan!
$15 for 200MB + $15 for each additional 200MB
$25 for 2GB +$10 for each additional 1GB
$40 for 2GB (enterprise server usage) + $10 for each additional 1GB (this plan is NOT needed)
$45 for 4GB (tether or non-tether usage) + $10 for each additional 1GB
$60 for 4GB (enterprise tether or non-tether usage) + $10 for each additional 1GB (this plan is also NOT needed)
Get your facts straight!

And what I need (want) is a tethering plan with a 2GB cap for $25. I don't consume most of the 2GB I pay for now anyway. Maybe with free tethering I would. And maybe then I might even go over and make AT&T some extra money.

I am currently tethering as a replacement for my home internet service. Using Verizon 3G, that tethering is no where near as fast as my cable modem was, but it's fast enough to do common surfing. Many web sites today can detect your mobile device and automatically give you the mobile verison. The mobile version has considerably less data transfer than a desktop version. So, if you tether, the site doesn't detect your mobile device, thus giving you the full site version with all the ads and videos and stuff your mobile device can't handle. Big data transfer can easily happen on tethering versus going to the same site on your mobile. This is why ATT is likely cracking down on free tethering users.
Tethering every day for the past 2 months, I have yet to exceed 2GB in one month. If you watch your data, stay away from streaming video and audio, your data consumption will be mild. If I had an Iphone or Android, I'd probably tether a lot less. But I got a BlackBerry. It's a 2 inch screen. But if you got an iPhone, which doesn't do flash, and you want to go to sites that do flash, then that's a reason to tether. It doesn't have to be limited to a replacement for your home service. These mobile devices have big limitations that tethering allows you to overcome.
I have a 3rd party app that shows data usage, so I am able to keep an eye on it and notice quickly what activities are big data hoggers.

I tether with pdanet using my nexus1 on a tmobile unlimited data plan. I get great speed up & down and never a hassle.
My iphone 4 is on an unlimited data plan and is never ever used to tether but I saw yesterday that I racked up 3.34 gb of downloaded data in February. And I always use wifi at home! Wonder if I'll get a letter/text?

I just got back from AT&T and they are charging me $25....for the use of the Internet........ somehow they detect that I was using Internet without paying I tought that by jailbreaking my iPhone they wouldn't know$t is retarded man

Listen dude....I don't have a contract with AT&T concerning with Internet or tethering.....I just pay for my line (my phone number and minutes) .... before I jailbroke my iPhone I did not receive internet and now I do .... for no reason I stared getting Internet since I jailbroke it.....NOT COOL AT&T......and how is that cheating....

Considering that AT&T wouldn't allow an activation of an iPhone without some sort of a data plan, you must have activated a vanilla voice-only phone and popped the SIM into an iPhone.
AT&T can detect that you are using an iPhone, even if you aren't using data (but in this case, you were). They will automatically add a data plan to your account.
There is no known way to hide data usage from AT&T, even with a jailbroken phone.

Most ridiculous thing in america... In my country, the provider teach us how to tether to maximize our data usage and not wasting the abundant gigabytes..

EVERYBODY!!! Let's start a protest!! EVERYONE with an Unlimited Data plan, let's all team up with TiPb, Gizmodo, Engadget, etc, and pick a day, and then on that day, we'll just start streaming Netflix over 3G non-stop until AT&T caves in and listens to us.

Heck yea! I'll put my phone on the charger and stream all day while I'm at school and work.. And then download ever free podcast in the iTunes store !!

What if you're a person who just uses a lot of data on their phone? They would be innocent victims of circumstance, and wouldn't changing or adding things to a customers plan without their consent be like illegal as changes can't be made to an account without the customers consent? Or if AT&T is checking apps on the phones, then isn't that invasion of privacy?

Screw AT&T I'm going to watch every movie that is available on Netflix over 3G, then stream every single video on YouTube..If I pay for unlimited data why should they tell me how to use it?? Who's with me?

Most everyone has a router in the house, right? We're not expected to pay for that as an additional service. Agreed? Suppose we had to pay individually for each device we connect to our home Internet.
When tethering I'm routing a signal I already pay for. . . to myself.
So damn the man : )

Exactly the correct analogy. And from the sounds of things, there are apparently plenty of folks on this forum who would support such a move by the cable and telco Internet providers. I can't fathom their motivations but they are here nonetheless.
AT&T is in the wrong here. I predict that continued bad press will eventually make them fold on this issue. Why piss off your customers? They're the ones paying you.

That analogy is wrong ...when you buy service for your home, it is known you nave have several devices on it. If you bought a device that required "per device" charges, then you would pay per device.
If you bought a car that came with an unlimited supply of gas refills ...does that mean you could bring that car, plus several other cars you own, to the pump for a fill up?
The data was bought for the iPhone use, not other devices.

Yep. U signed a contract that says the data usage is for the iPhone only, and not for other devices tethered to it. Don't cry because AT&T is calling you out for going against the terms of the contract u signed. In the immortal words of MST3K's Gypsy: "This is your dish washing liquid, YOU soak in it!"

Contracts are re-written all the time. There is nothing about them that is cast in stone. Nothing new there either. And the fact that AT&T has reserved the right to modify the terms of the service in these contracts reflects that fact. This isn't about contract rights. It's about a huge company screwing it's customers because they believe that mere individuals have no real way of stopping them. They should be ashamed of themselves making people pay for the same service twice. Disgraceful behavior.

Really, "it's known". Where is it known? Some people use routers, some don't. And some service providers did try to prohibit the use of routers. The prohibitions didn't work because the mass of users simply refused to comply and enforcement was impossible.
We are still at the very beginning of the age of wireless data. If a per device charge is going to take hold, as opposed to a bandwidth charge, overall use will be limited. That doesn't help anyone. It hurts the consumer by making people pay multiple times for the same thing and the cost barrier limits market acceptance ultimately hurting the provider. It is our responsibility as the paying customers to make our desires known. That is what this is all about.

This article seems a bit fast and loose, particularly the "what if everybody did that" rhetorical move. Answer: nothing follows. If everybody on the AT&T net tethered and used exactly the amount of data they would have used on the iPhone directly (certainly a logical possibility), then there would be no impact at all. And that's rather the point. The assumption--by AT&T and the outraged hoards of AT&T customers, alike--seems to be that tethering necessarily inflates data use, making the discussion one of whether I have the right to use my "unlimited" data in whatever way I like.
But there has been no evidence whatsoever that tethering=increased data consumption. If speculation and anecdotes count (which apparently is the case), then I offer my own use as an example. I have a 3GS, an iPad1, and a MBA. I work for the fed, so cannot put personally owned devices on the net. While at work, I tether my MBA for email and iDisk/iCal syncing. I've never even hit the 200MB cap (at $15/mo), and I have an unlimited plan (for which I always have paid, and continue to pay, $30). Perhaps I'm just slow on the uptake, but I fail to see how this is somehow unjust to AT&T. I do, however, see how jailbreaking an iOS device to prevent throttling and then streaming HD for massive swaths of the day is conceivably abusive; but there has been no talk of AT&T doing anything about that. (I suspect that they can't cite knowledge of specific apps installed on specific customer devices, if this knowledge exists. As with throttling of home services, I imagine that AT&T is generalizing over information that they can acknowledge possessing, like the fact of a jail broken device--which is detectable--combined with particular patterns of data use.)
And that brings us to another thread of this discussion. The claim that using a router in one's home to share an unlimited data account is fundamentally different needs to be defended. It might be, but no evidence to this effect has been introduced. In fact, when cable broadband was introduced to some areas (e.g., roadrunner in s. FLA), they stipulated that routers were not permitted--a great example, it seems to me, of what attorneys call, "unactionable," since the only legitimate way that they can know this is if you tell them. So to suggest that companies would never dream of limiting the use of an unlimited data plan (or that we would never entertain obeying such rules) is just false: they did and for a while, some of us complied. Equally silly is to suggest that the use of a data line across multiple devices "is known at the outset" when establishing home service is just a stupid thing to say. How? Every home with broadband has a router? Multiple wifi devices? It may well be accepted as a likelihood, but that's a radically different claim.
The issue, surely, is what (if any) differences there are between the unlimited plans attaching to wired services and the unlimited plans attaching to mobile plans. (Limited plans, it seems to me, are not problematic; if I pay for 200mb, then I am clearly entitled to 200mb of data and if I prefer to suck that out of the ether via a purple Silly Straw, that surely is permissible, since I paid for 200mb of data. Unlimited plans are different precisely because we know that every unlimited data plan customer, in fact, uses a specific amount of data (not an infinite amount), and service providers bank on being able to discern the actual data use of people who have unlimited data plans. If tethering inflates the portion of "unlimited" that a given person uses, then tethering is relevant to the general health of the net, and so the general health of the system and the entitlements of all paying customers.)
Screaming that we should all, recklessly use as much data as humanly possible "to show them" is childish, selfish, and has nothing to do with the issue. (You might as well pout and hold your breath, for all the good it will do.)
It would be nice if someone with knowledge of data use patterns and the like could tell us whether--and most importantly according to what evidence we know this--tethering is known to impact bandwidth in the ways assumed, viz., inflating overall net burden. It seems plausible to suspect that some jailbreaking tetherers are using a lot of bandwidth without the limits attaching to pure mobile use (like throttling of movies, limits on gaming, preventing torrent downloads, etc.). I'm still not sure that these behaviors are abusive enough to justify AT&T's reaction, but that's why evidence is so important. It also far from unreasonable to suppose the worst of AT&T, since--let us be clear--the whole point of "minutes" is to charge customers gobs more than would be feasible if we called it what it is: data. Paying, say, $50/mo in minutes, because I can't as readily (or permissibly) use a data-consuming app included in my unlimited data that would get me those calls for no extra charge is simply fleecing people. We know it. The carriers know it. So the idea that AT&T would intentionally use a setup guaranteed to inflate our costs when there really is no technical justification is not only possible, but actual.
Now I'm going to go hold my breath until AT&T does what I want them to.

Sometimes screaming is the only thing a huge company will hear. Especially a huge company with a long history of anti-competitive behavior. You think that AT&T can be reasoned with. I think they are acting in bad faith.
Incidentally, I'm not jail broken or tethered. It just angers me to see a big company squeeze people because they think they can.

Paying for tethering is like having a dsl connection and charging extra if a second computer is using the connection. In most countries tethering is free and until recently at&t did not even provide this service. If they cant provide unlimited data then they should have started offering such a program. Now they are trying to punish loyal customers for years about their fault of not foreseeing the future of cell phones and expansion of mobile internet.

Incorrect -when a DSL connection is sold, the provider knows additional computers will be used. AT&T sold unlimited use by the iPhone, not devices tethered it it

Really, how? Some broadband providers did in fact try to prohibit router use. Didn't work out for them.

I have never tethered before, but after hearing about this today I have downloaded MiWi and am using as much data as I possibly can. Bring it on AT&T!
The AT&T contract includes this clause:
Verizon LTE network and Droid Bionic in April (hopefully)....that's the plan. I wonder how much data I have to eat up before AT&T sends me this notice?

I just got off the phone with AT&T, after having talked to them for 45 minutes about this. I was told, by two different people during two different phone calls that they are NOT basing this off of your upload/download usage. I easily exceed 2GB a month (thank god I have unlimited), but I was told that they have a specific department dedicated to monitoring accounts for "illegal tethering". They can tell when you've shared your data connection from your iPhone with another device. All bias aside, this is creepy as f**k. I asked how they did this, and neither one of the reps I talked to was sure, and when I asked to speak to someone that works in this unnamed "illegal tethering" department, I was told they don't talk to customers directly. Very strange, and privacy invading. Hope this helps.

i just got that eamil and they said after april 16th if they see that you tether they will automatically change your unlimited data to the 4gb one whihc is prolly very expensive. this sucks. i might change to verizon or try to avoid it at all cost.

In another forum somebody used the analogy that jailbroken tethering is the same as sharing your water or electricity with your neighbors. This analogy is false because 99.9% of tether'ers do so for themselves in order to use other devices they own. So the proper analogy would be like this: For electricy it's like charging your 18Volt lithium battery to use in your dewalt cordless drill. Should the electric company charge you for the electricity used by the drill? Or for water, it's like filling up a few gallon jugs of water to take on a camping trip. Should the water company charge you extra because you didn't use the water directly out of the faucet in your house? Just because you are using the utilities for other means, you still paid for them! Same goes for data usage. If I am paying for unlimited, then I should be able to use it on any of my devices as I see fit. It becomes illegal when I start to share my unlimited data with other users.

@SHAWN how much data were you using on average? Were you blowing over 5 GB on the "unlimited" plan or were you within the confines of 2GB?

Regardless of how the data is being used (tethering) we've signed up for UNLIMITED DATA PLAN!! I believe it is our choice of how we use the data!
When AT&T first had unlimited data plan offered they weren't aware of this tethering and now they are and want us to pay... I think this is completely AT&T's mistake. They should not have offered unlimited data plan or had tethering service from the beggining!
They should STFU about bandwidth BS and stop playing game with their royal customers!

Except as may otherwise be specifically permitted or prohibited for select data plans, data sessions may be conducted only for the following purposes: (i) Internet browsing; (ii) email; and (iii) intranet access (including access to corporate intranets, email, and individual productivity applications like customer relationship management, sales force, and field service automation). While most common uses for Internet browsing, email and intranet access are permitted by your data plan, there are certain uses that cause extreme network capacity issues and interference with the network and are therefore prohibited. Examples of prohibited uses include, without limitation, the following: (i) server devices or host computer applications, including, but not limited to, Web camera posts or broadcasts, automatic data feeds, automated machine-to-machine connections or peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing; (ii) as a substitute or backup for private lines, wireline s or full-time or dedicated data connections; (iii) "auto-responders," "cancel-bots," or similar automated or manual routines which generate excessive amounts of net traffic, or which disrupt net user groups or email use by others; (iv) "spam" or unsolicited commercial or bulk email (or activities that have the effect of facilitating unsolicited commercial email or unsolicited bulk email); (v) any activity that adversely affects the ability of other people or systems to use either AT&T's wireless services or other parties' Internet-based resources, including "denial of service" (DoS) attacks against another network host or individual user; (vi) accessing, or attempting to access without authority, the accounts of others, or to penetrate, or attempt to penetrate, security measures of AT&T's wireless network or another entity's network or systems; (vii) software or other devices that maintain continuous active Internet connections when a computer's connection would otherwise be idle or any "keep alive" functions, unless they adhere to AT&T's data retry requirements, which may be changed from time to time. This means, by way of example only, that checking email, surfing the Internet, downloading legally acquired songs, and/or visiting corporate intranets is permitted, but downloading movies using P2P file sharing services, redirecting television signals for viewing on Personal Computers, web broadcasting, and/or for the operation of servers, telemetry devices and/or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition devices is prohibited. Furthermore, plans (unless specifically designated for tethering usage) cannot be used for any applications that tether the device (through use of, including without limitation, connection kits, other phone/smartphone to computer accessories, BLUETOOTH® or any other wireless technology) to Personal Computers (including without limitation, laptops), or other equipment for any purpose. Accordingly, AT&T reserves the right to (i) deny, disconnect, modify and/or terminate Service, without notice, to anyone it believes is using the Service in any manner prohibited or whose usage adversely impacts its wireless network or service levels or hinders access to its wireless network, including without limitation, after a significant period of inactivity or after sessions of excessive usage and (ii) otherwise protect its wireless network from harm, compromised capacity or degradation in performance, which may impact legitimate data flows. You may not send solicitations to AT&T's wireless subscribers without their consent. You may not use the Services other than as intended by AT&T and applicable law. Plans are for individual, non-commercial use only and are not for resale. AT&T may, but is not required to, monitor your compliance, or the compliance of other subscribers, with AT&T's terms, conditions, or policies.
portion of wireless customer agreement from AT&T which is given to each and every account holder.

I have never tethered my iPhone. I did receive the text message and letter from AT&T. I called their 800 number. I received a runaround. I filed a complaint with the FCC.
This morning, I was advised by the office of the president that because of the VOLUME of data I use that they have determined that i -must- be tethering.
No, I do listen to iheartradio and 5-0 radio and Facebook one he'll of a lot.
I my data usage doesn't drop, they'll automatically switch me to a tethering plan... EVEN THO I DO NOT TETHER.
Ok, who do I complain to or sign up for a class action with next?

I am having the same problem with T-Mobile, even though I explicitly asked about T-Mobile when I signed up, and was explicitly told that there was a free tethering app on the official Android Market, that I could get directly through my phone. Now I am under contract for another 6 months without access to the service I was told I could have.
Another person in my family plan was slapped with a tethering charge almost immediately after he upgraded to a 4G phone and signed on for another two years.
This is a classic example of bait-and-switch.
I do advocacy for a living, and this is not my issue. Still, I have a pretty good handle on how to make T-Mobile regret this. I am looking for anyone who knows how others are pressuring T-Mobile to back off, or who wants to help do so. There is supposed to be strength in numbers, after all.

On Sunday October 16, 2011, AT&T spokesperson Elizabeth Facio announced that AT&T would no longer be honoring pryor unlimited teathering plans. She indicated technology limitations were the most decisive factor. Additionally, all other grandfathered plans will be barred from tethering altogether. Even pay per use tethering will not be available. Ms. Facio was unwilling to comment further, stating only that to tether, you must give up your unlimited data plan.

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