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?