AT&T cracks down on unauthorized tethering

“AT&T has started to issue warnings to customers unofficially tethering their smartphones to its network,” Andrew Munchbach reports for BGR.

“In an email to unauthorized tetherers, the company writes, ‘Our records show that you use this capability, but are not subscribed to our tethering plan.’ The correspondence goes on to note that users will be automatically enrolled in the $45 per month ‘DataPro for Smartphone Tethering’ plan if they ignore the warning,” Munchbach reports. “‘The new plan – whether you sign up on your own or we automatically enroll you – will replace your current smartphone data plan, including if you are on an unlimited data plan,’ the email continues”

Munchbach reports, “The standard DataPro offering is $25 per month and provides users with 2GB of monthly data, although some users are still clinging to a discontinued, $30 per month 5GB data plan. It is safe to assume that a large portion of the unofficial, tethering populous is jailbroken iPhone users and rooted Android users. ‘If you discontinue tethering, no changes to your current plan will be required.’

The full article, which includes a copy of AT&T’s email, here.

MacDailyNews Take: You already pay for the data, but you can’t use it in certain ways unless you pay AT&T for it again. We don’t know what to tell you except to contact your congressperson and hope that one of their large campaign contributors isn’t AT&T (or any telecom company). Good luck with that.

MiWi users: Be careful out there.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]


    1. I doubt it. They have the billing data and leverage. It will probably end with you going to verizon. If you illegally tether it is like stealing cable Internet by taking off the company’s filter from your line. Unfortunately it’s illegal for you to do that even though it isn’t a huge deal.

    2. If you have an unlimited plan, just figure out a way to make your iPhone use a ridiculous amount of data. Perhaps a script, or something along those lines, that continually loads pages, or preferably videos. Or maybe stream multiple HD videos continually. Use significantly more data than you are while tethering. Plug it in at night and let it run while you sleep. Sounds like the best legal retaliation I can think of.

      1. This is a horrible idea as the bandwitdh congestion might also affect other innocent customers. ATT will never notice this but your neighbors will. Don’t be petty.

      2. I rescind my statement.

        A user on Ars Technica who goes by Zevanni has made a valid point that it’s not about the data usage, it’s about airtime. Phones and phone OSes are designed to do what needs to be done, then disconnect from the network. Towers can only maintain so many simultaneous connections, and they are limited by wireless spectrum. It’s an inherent weakness in the technology, and for this reason phones are based on push services. When you tether, you are using a desktop OS that is not designed with this in mind. Multiple apps and background processes constantly send and receive information, so when a person tethers, they never give up their connection to the tower. This creates problems in dense areas where towers can get overloaded quickly.

  1. Jailbreakers getting inti the AT&T jail called billing. Stop stealing software and pony up. If you don’t like it start your own telecom company. MDN is right about contacting your congressman, but clear out your phone first. I don’t personally know a jailbreaker who doesn’t have stolen apps or illegal ROMS on their phone.

    1. Ok. This is just pathetic. I really hate when people associate jail breaking with stealing. I’ve been jail broken since iPhone OS 1.1.2 and I do not run any stolen software on my phone. Just because the trashy people you know steals software doesn’t mean we all do.

      1. And since were on the Internet you’re going to be completely honest. I am a school teacher and in the 6 years I have been teaching high schoolers I have only had one student who didn’t have pirated songs on their iPod. I haven’t had any with jailbroken iPods who didn’t have stolen software. All of my friends who jailbreak are piraters as well. I appreciate your honesty but it’s safe to assume that many pwners want to play without paying. That is the nature of Internet piracy.

        1. I like how you expect me to bother reading the rest of your post when in the first sentence you call me a liar. I’m so sorry for your unfortunate outlook on people.

          1. Btw jailbreaking isn’t just for stealing software but also to make your phone personal make the phone do what you want it to do and those illegal downloads are there for the purpose of try it before you buy it something windows has over apple if someone decides to keep it in there phone that’s a different story

  2. I’m not defending ATT but haven’t free tetherers been stealing? I know all telcos rip us off but does that make it ok to usurp your contract agreement ?? Just being devils advocate here…

    1. That’s a good point. These slapdash BGR and MDN posts, as far as I can tell, don’t ask this question: What DOES your AT&T contract say? If it says you can’t tether without paying for it, then you are pretty much screwed, aren’t you? Any lawyers out there have a different take? Oh yes, there’s what’s “right” and what’s contractual, and, wouldn’t ya know it, sometimes they just ain’t the same.

    2. THIS is the correct way to look at it.

      It’s like the guy that gets mad when a cop pulls him over for doing 5 over the limit. He IS speeding, the cop is correct.

      As for all jail breakers pirating stuff, I’d say 95%+ do though.
      When I was jail broken, I had a few apps I pirated. I was not about to pay $$ for anything off cydia. You want donations, fine. But make me pay for something that apple could either incorporate into the iOS, which they did with many things in 4.0. Or outright brick all jail broken phones. If the court ruled with apple… They could have.
      Or AT&T could have done the same thing they are doing now with the tethering.

  3. So I drive my car on the NY Interstate Thruway from New York City Line to Exit 8, White Plains for $1.25.

    I attach my boat and now it costs $1.50.

    I pay for the road, and I can’t use it anyway I want. Doubt that my Congressman can or will help me here.

    1. Admit, md8mac, if your home internet link were billed in this manner, you would be screaming about it. Want to add a second laptop, cha-ching! Oh, you hooked up a Roku box? That’s a separate $20 fee on top of your monthly internet bill, and you can only stream 5GB per month. Extra GB on the Roku will run $1/GB. Whoops! We just detected an internet-enabled TV *and* Blu-ray player – an extra $10 per month each, I’m afraid. Of course, we will pipe this all through the same internet connection with the same throughput cap for which you have already paid!

      In your example, you are using “more road” with your boat attached than with your car, alone.

      In the AT&T example, you have prepaid for a certain amount of road, but you can’t use any of that for your boat – you have to buy the same damn road again. It is ridiculous!

      1. You must be young, kingmel (or old, and you forgot), but that’s EXACTLY how it used to be with US ISPs. When you signed up for ADSL or cable in the early days (11 years ago), you were NOT allowed to install a router. There was a separate monthly charge for multiple computers, and you were in violation of your contract if you hooked up more than one.

        Eventually, they realised that majority of people actually have more than one computer at home, so they begun offering their own free WiFi routers…

        1. In addition, if you wanted to install a router, you had to buy or lease it from the internet provider!

          So what happened? Consumer demand. The problem with tethering is that there really isn’t that much demand for it, despite all the “outrage” being tossed about on forums like this. Very few people have a need to tether a device to their mobile phone.

  4. For a group that professes to detest government involvement you sure are quick to want the government to get involved here. You should be happy; this is capitalism in action.

    1. MDN’s record on Net Neutrality is well established. Bits are bits and one bit should not have preference over another bit. Conservatives, Liberals, Capitalists, Communists should all want the same thing here. This is issue is mostly free from ideology. Go back under the bridge troll.

      1. Well, they nominally declare they are in favour of net neutrality. But whenever the “Net Neutrality” (notice the capitalisation — referring to the proposed governmental oversight ideas) is mentioned, they tend to become quite suspicious and would prefer the ‘free market’ to find a solution on its own…

        1. Not sure tethering has anything to do with “the greater good.” Providing infrastructure, preventing crime, etc benefit the greater good. Charging extra for tethering is an annoyance and a ridiculous practice, but no one is hurt by it.

      1. AT&T has competitors. If you don’t like AT&T’s service, you go to another competitor. That is capitalism in action.

        And although I am generally in favour of regulation, I feel the opposite of MDN’s call to get politicians involved in this one.

        Of course, I don’t have an iPhone yet… waiting for my contract to run out on my KRZR.

  5. You signed the contract and now you are complaining?
    Tethering is a different thing than normal data usage on your phone.
    Tethering w/o paying for it is stealing.

    How is Verizon handling situation like this? Exactly.

    Nice example with the toll md8mac, analogy is perfect.

    1. If you read other forums, people are getting this email/text who don’t tether. AT$T are going after people with higher data usage. The company is defining tethering as not only connecting your phones data to your computer but also streaming audio an video and also downloading large files. They have twisted the meaning of tethering.

      Go to modmyi and read their board.

  6. You pay for a certain amount of data and you should be entitled to access this defined amount of data any way you wish without any other charges for the privilege as there are no additional expenses for the telcos at that point. End of story. It’s an abuse that should have a legal solution, like a law written. I’ve had it with the blatant greed of the dumb pipe companies.

    1. Just make your own device and app store problem solved. You can be an iLord. Or switch to a device that let’s you customize the way you want ala Andriod. I like the way we are ignoring the issue. The issue is people a illegally using a device to tether when you are charged for tethering. Other phones can do it for free so switch. The other issue is people want to do things one way when a service provider says no you cry foul. Become the provider or boycott for change.

      1. You’re a school teacher? And you’re response is “if you don’t like it go build your own? God help our education system if people with that maturity level are running it.

  7. Yesterday as a Canadian we were getting the flack. Today is great to be Canadain because we do not pay extra for either tethering or personal hotspot. I know we do not get unlimited data but the 6g is my to do with as I please with no extra cost. Score one for Canada .

  8. Do not be surprised if the names of AT&T and Verizon change to Apple & Google. It really seems that for mobile media consumption, there can be no future with the current trend of tiered data plans and current cost per megabyte. O.K. Apple, Here is that bold move you were looking for.

  9. You already paid for the data and the amount you use. Why do you have to paid again to use the same data just because you want to tether. It makes no difference to the telco companies how you use it, but they want to dicate how you use the your data and double charge for it.

    Its like you bought a knife to use in your kitchen, but if you wnat to use in the backyard kitchen, you will have to pay again. Makes no sense and I don’t see why it makes any difference on the telco’s end that they have to charge you additional.

    I’ll switch to the first carrier that ends this bs when iphone is available on their network.

  10. The simplest pricing would be a pure metered — no minimum, no maximum, no overage, no restriction on what you use it for day to day or month to month, just a “cost per MB” (or per 100MB, or whatever). However, I’m guessing they believe most consumer don’t want that because it’s not predictable. This is what gas & electric companies do (at least here in upstate NY) — you can buy your on a purely metered plan that is simple but it’s less in the summer and more in the winter because it’s cold, and if it’s really cold your bill will be really high, but lots of people don’t like that so they offer plans that does a set amount with all kinds of restrictions, averages, etc, but you get a set dollar amount each month.

    I’m guessing the carriers are doing the same thing bills — they make all kinds of simplifying assumptions like “with this data cap you get the same predictable bill every month”. Since users who tether most like use a *lot* more data than non-tethering users, the need a different set of simplifications which leads to a different plan for tethering. The downside is that the plans gets confusing.

    It would be nice if the carriers would at least offer the option of a “purely metered” plan, i.e. cost per MB, no min, no max, no restrictions, just pure cost per MB. Then people who valued the ability to do anything that is technically possible over financial predictability could use that option.

  11. Now, if a fellow, or lady, hypothetically had a jailbroken iPhone and they were possibly using Mywi to use their phone as a hotspot then they actually are not using the “tethering” option on their phone. They could, I’m guessing, be sharing their iPhone unlimited plan without ever clicking the “Set Up Internet Tethering” option in their settings. Doesn’t it seem that those folks could be under the radar? Have any of these types of people seen a warning Email from AT&T?

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.