Jailbreakers: AT&T begins cracking down on unauthorized iPhone, iPad tethering

“We’ve gotten word from some readers that AT&T is moving forward and removing unlimited plans for users who jailbreak iPhones to tether or hotspot off of AT&T’s unlimited data plans (for those grandfathered),” Seth Weintraub reports for 9to5Mac.

An AT&T spokesperson has confirmed the info:

Earlier this year, we began sending letters, emails, and text messages to a small number of smartphone customers who use their devices for tethering but aren’t on our required tethering plan. Our goal here is fairness for all of our customers. (This impacts a only small percentage of our smartphone customer base.)

The letters outline three choices:

1) Stop tethering and keep their current plan (including grandfathered unlimited plan)
2) Proactively call AT&T or visit our stores and move to the required tethering plan
3) Do nothing and we’ll go ahead and add the tethering plan on their behalf — after the dated noted in their customer notification

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]


  1. ah yes. more of that fabled small % of hooligans ruining it for all the feebleminded masses who think it’s a teenager watching netflix 24/7 causing issues and not AT&Ts shitty underfunded network.

    mmm hmmm.

    1. Hooligans? If you have a plan for, say 5GB, why can’t you use it for everything?

      The US consumers seem to be completely numbed by all the silly requirements imposed upon them by ISPs, that there doesn’t seem to be a major uprising against the arbitrary restrictions (designed to collect even more money from them, usually not really to protect the “majority” against a(n ever growing) minority of heavy users).

      “Fair use” maybe should be defined more carefully: an “unlimited” plan, with average use of max 5GB, but with occasional overshoots up to, say max 20GB, compensated by *prior” usaged, i.e., let the ISPs state a target cap (= a guideline) with the provision that the moving average shouldn’t exceed it. So if you UNDERuse, then you build up GB credit.

  2. AT&T is quite possibly the most despicable company I’m aware of. People focus on oil companies for some reason but this company is the devil’s excrement.

    How dare they feel they should be able to charge you for doing nothing other than using the bandwidth you purchased. SO WHAT it shifted over to another device.

    This is akin to them saying that you should have to pay them for using a bluetooth headset.

    I am so sick of AT&T and their ilk it makes me want to vomit. Yet consumers just keep taking it up the butt. Why is there no class action law suit here? Some idiot scratches his iPhone and the next day there’s a class action law suit. AT&T fu&*ks everyone and there’s not a peep. Except for Republicans trying to hand over all available wireless spectrum to them.

    1. I think they should do this… Why should people like me have to pay for only 2 gigs a month but others get to use and abuse the unlimited because they were grandfathered in! Here’s an idea stop letting select people have better plans and make it equal

      1. and you want to hear the funny part?

        The people tethering without a plan (and complaining that Data is Data and they *should* be able to tether without a plan) Signed a contract WITH AT&T to ONLY get the data on their iPhones. They agreed to NOT tether, then they violated the contract (not AT&T…) and when AT&T starts to address the USER violating the contract…. it’s open season to bash AT&T.

        Regardless of the “Data is Data” argument (it’s irrelevant really) AT&T offered up the Rules of the game, and the user agreed to them. AT&T didn’t break the contract, the jailbreakers that are getting caught did.

    1. It’s the amount of bits, and the rate. They might also be doing deep packet analysis looking for evidence.

      Unlimited ain’t unlimited. (with apologies to Will Rogers)

    2. They know if you use jailbroken phone.
      They know your data usage.

      I’m not sure but I think they can also ping the device IP address etc. to prove that you have multiple devices on same connection.

  3. Is AT&T cracking down with everyone tethering? I do it as a back up on my iPad non 3g and laptop when I travel. I avg only 1gb per month. How would they know I tether?

    1. So what now? F%#^ing AT&T is going to compile a huge database of registered MAC addresses and cross check that against a database of people who paid $20 extra for a tethered program to track down 1Gb of data usage? Which by the way you’ve paid for through your data plan?

        1. and what service is that? Tethering without a plan?

          I’m not on AT&T’s side here… but they offered up a contract, AND gave the user the option….. And the USER decided to agree to NOT tether, then did so anyway.

          AT&T is correct.
          Unlimited Data, is the OPTION you agreed to when you signed the contract. which did NOT include the ability to tether.

  4. AT&T’s motive is fairness… Right! It’s not fair for some customers to tether their iPhones for free while others are paying through the nose for a feature they shouldn’t be paying extra for at all. Isn’t it bad enough that most of their plans now have data caps? How people use their data “allowance” should not be restricted in any way.

  5. This is another reason I’ll never use AT&T again. That and their bullsh*t all or nothing texting plans.

    And they want to try and convince us they are acquiring T-Mobile to make the user experience better? Give me a break.

      1. Not 100% sure, but i think in the US anyway Sprint is the only Major carrier to not charge for separate Data/Tether.
        And I think it’s cause Sprint is tiny compared to the others so they do so to try and get users.

        AT&T is just getting bashed cause they are actually doing something about it.

  6. This is nothing new, they emailed me about this MONTHS ago. They don’t even go based on theathering, they just go based on assumption if your using allot of data that month. Because I use Tunein Radio and Pandora ALLOT on my iPhone, they accused me of it and I called their support and mentioned this and they “removed the flag”. So if you get a notice about this, just call them and say you use streaming radio on a regular basis and it uses allot of data.

  7. ok novice here. but can they tell it’s a jail broken device, or are they assuming it’s tethering given the huge data usage. i use wifi minimally when i travel at hotels, but haven’t received any type of notice (my average monthly is >1.5 GB data)

    1. As has been pointed out many times before, yes.

      Jailbreak apps claim that it is impossible, but they lie.
      If you are using tethering for minimal use, say the 1.5GB total you mentioned. Odds are you will not get caught.

      if it were 10GB…. you will.
      AT&T has stated before that they are only going after heavy users. I have the unlimited plan, but i don’t think i have ever gone over 2 GB ever…
      I have a 3G iPad so I don’t need to tether it, and I am 95% of the time near WiFi anyway.

      I was just on Vacation for a week with zero WiFi access… I used about 300MB on my iPad and another 150 on my iPhone… I knew i wasn’t going to have internet, so I planned my life without it. (Some people can’t…..)

      Bottom line, It doesn’t matter how YOU think your Data should be charged/used…. YOU signed a contract. AT&T/Verizon/Sprint/ETC has EVERY right to block you if YOU Violate it. (not saying you do.. Just in general)

      Think of your water/electricity bill.
      the city (or water company) doesn’t care how you use the water (or electricity) there is no “Cap”.
      but go ahead and use 800000000000 Gallons in a month, or use enough power to light up a small country… and then tell them “It’s my Water/Electricity, I pay for it and I can use it however i want”
      They have every right to come out and make sure there is no leak ETC.

      AT&T can’t change your bill, your plan… Unless the USER violates the terms… Period.
      Tethering without the “plan” violates YOUR Contract YOU signed.

      You can bash the carriers all they want, but you the user signed the contract and agreed to follow the CARRIER’S rules. If you don’t like it, go to a different carrier. But they pretty much all have the same rules.

  8. Ah, yes the evil carriers. Always trying to make money! I hate it when they do that.

    Funny how when technology is involved, some people just don’t think they should have to pay for it. If it was your local grocery store, and you decided you needed a few extra items, would you find a way to sneak in the back, and just take them without paying? After all, you shop with them all the time, and they already get “plenty of your money.” Would that be okay with you, because the evil grocery store is getting “rich” off you, because “that’s all they care about?”

    Cable TV, cell phone service, internet access, etc. It doesn’t matter. Some people just don’t feel they should have to pay for it, so stealing is okay. They don’t want to hear that the companies who provide these services have maintenance costs, upgrade costs, insurance costs, employee payroll, taxes, etc. They don’t just sit there and “rake in the cash.” None of that matters, of course. Big companies are faceless, so it’s okay to vilify them, and steal from them.

    A little ignorance gives some people comfort for their bad behaviors.

    1. Using you’re same analogy, if you buy a gallon of milk (2GB of data) and at checkout the cashier ask you are you planning on using the milk for baking goods (tethering for example) or eating cereal (“normal usage”)? You say both, why should it matter if I’m paying for a gallon? Their response, “oh well even though you have an entire gallon that you can use for either, the mere fact you want to bake good with it, we have to charge you a little bit more.” You’re initial response would be how does that make a lick of goddamn sense?

      That is everyone’s point in this post. Regardless if I’m getting 2gb or unlimited, if I’m praying for it, you are getting your money why the fuck does it matter how I’m using it? If I want to take a bath in milk or give some to my friend if I’m doing that out of my gallon then who the fuck should care? I have an unlimited plan. I rarely go over 2GB even when I jailbreak tether. Fuck ATT and their wanting to nickel/dime & tax me for what I want to use my data that I’m paying for. I completely understand the argument of charging a little extra if someone goes over 2gb. thats reasonable, not hey lets wallet rape you for what you plan on doing inside that 2gb that you are already paying us for. Now does that seem fair or reasonable to you?

      Charge me for a service. Give me the service. Don’t worry about what the fuck I’m doing with the service because I already paid you for it. If I go over, charge me a little more, its that simple.

    2. Hahahah, oh OtherSideoftheCoin. I love it people that are ignorant about technology try to lecture others on it. Thank you.

      I’d go into detail about why you’re full of shit but DevilAdvocate beat me to the punch. Aww…

      So are you going to try explaining how AT&T is justified in gouging customers to the tune of $20/mo. for using the gallon of milk they purchased fair and square from AT&T-Mart to bake with(tethering) instead of pouring it on cereal(normal usage)?

      God, I can hardly wait for Apple to break free from the carriers somehow. Apple can probably hardly wait either…

    3. People are mad because the carriers force the to pay multiple times for the same serves: data, SMS, shared hot spot.

      Data is data … should be treated similar to electricity, water etc.

      1. SMS technically does NOT use data; it uses voice networks (which is why you can sent SMS messages in areas with no data coverage). Obviously, this does NOT in any way justify breaking down voice network services into talk and text and charging separately for them.

        However, the analogy with gallon of milk is completely wrong. A better (although not ideal) analogy here would be that of free ketchup in a restaurant. You order french fries, you get a bottle of ketchup. There is no limit — you get the unlimited use of ketchup with those fries (like unlimited data with the monthly plan you sign up for). However, it is clear that the restaurant will eventually refuse to bring you a third bottle if you empty first two onto your plate and suck them down (or even shove them in your bag for later). I don’t think anyone would bother complaining to the manager if they refused to bring third bottle of the “free” catchup.

        Or you could imagine an all-you-can-eat buffet, where five guys from pro wrestling team come in and vacuum all the food from the buffet table. They paid for all-you-can-eat, and they can eat a lot. I don’t think anyone here would argue that’s fair to everyone else in the restaurant.

        More importantly, in this case, it isn’t just about the amount of data heavy users suck down. It is about the bandwidth they use to suck it down. There is a fundamental difference in the rate of such suction between computers (laptops) and cellphones. When people tether their laptops, they primarily use it to access the web. Surfing the web from your cellphone most often fetches mobile versions of web sites, which consume significantly less data. More importantly, because of that, the rate at which it is done is lower than on a laptop. When you watch a YouTube stream in HD, you’ll be sucking 4Mbps (if your 3G network can even sustain that). When you watch YouTube on a cellphone, it will be in the low-res SD stream that does go over 500kbps.

        Yes, all data is the same, except when it isn’t. Some data wants to travel faster than other. Tethering does affect others.

        1. Well said, Predrag. I think this is one of the reasons why carriers are doing away with “unlimited” data plans. We love them, but they are more trouble than they are worth to the carriers. Sure, most people won’t use that much data, but a few will beat the hell out of the network. When they do that, they annoy all the other users on that cell by hogging bandwidth.

          While OtherSideOfTheCoin used a poor analogy, I think the bottom line for all of us is this:

          1. The carriers offer a service. If we agree to the terms of service, we have to follow them as long as we use that service.
          2. If we don’t want to follow them, we don’t have to. We can chose to stop doing business with them.
          3. Deciding that we don’t like the terms that come with the service, and trying to get something in violation of the terms probably isn’t the right way to do it.

          1. I think you are both wrong. Unlimited SHOULD mean just that. No limit. It is disingenuous to advertise using that term that is universally understood and then place limits, PERIOD.

            The milk analogy is dead on. You are just so used to getting screwed by corporations you have taken the company line, hook line and sinker.

            Now on to your terms argument. Go get a custom agreement from a large corp that you feel is good for both, good luck. You take it up the but and like it or don’t, you really have ZERO choice other than to go phone less, which really isn’t a realistic option for most. They dictate, fai or not. The only real option people who disagree have is to ignore and circumvent. Most are so conditioned to not even read the agreements just click yes. Who wants to reAd 60 pages to make a call, install softwar or upgrade heir os? Why does it take a lawyer or specialist to understand most of it? Because you are getting screwed that’s why. Welcome to the united corps of america, profit at any cost.

            As for the all you can eat analogy, what part of ALL you can eat don’t you understand. Tell me I gotta live by their rules, yet if I eat mire than the average I am bad for it? I don’t think so, sounds like the consumer getting the better end of the deal to me, why does the corp always get the win. How does that corporate schlong taste lemmings…

            1. @Truth

              Paranoid “Evil corporations out to screw us” rantings aside, I agree that they shouldn’t call it “unlimited” if it has limits. It appears the carriers thought that so few people would really push the limits, that it wouldn’t be a problem. They were wrong. Now they are doing away with the so-called “unlimited” plans. No more confusion. We will know what the limits are, and how much it will cost us. Sure, I wish it was $1/month, but that’s just not going to happen. We are going to have to pay for what we use.

  9. Never get tired of all the techtards saying… How can they tell I’m tethering?

    Dumbasses, it’s call a MAC address. Just because u don’t have a clue about tech, doesn’t mean ATT techs don’t either.

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