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AT&T Notifies Unauthorized Tetherers to Knock It Off

Article Comments  100+  

Mar 18, 2011, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

AT&T has begun alerting smartphone customers who tether their devices for mobile broadband use — but aren't paying for that feature — need to either pay as required or cease tethering. AT&T spokesperson Seth Bloom confirmed to Phone Scoop via email, "We've just begun 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." The letter gives these customers three options from which they can choose. They can stop tethering and keep their current plan (including grandfathered unlimited plan); they can proactively call AT&T or visit its stores and move to the required tethering plan; or they can do nothing and AT&T will go ahead and add the tethering plan on their behalf — after the dated noted in their cease and desist customer notification. Tethering lets users attach a smartphone — such as an iPhone or Android device — to a laptop and use it as a wireless modem to connect to the internet. The tethering and data plan costs $45 per month for 4GB of data, which is the total available for surfing from the handset ($25/month) and from a computer ($20/month) combined.

from AT&T
more info at BGR »



This forum is closed.

This forum is closed.


Mar 18, 2011, 6:03 PM

All you can fit into one bag.

Upon seeing an advertisement, I walk into a store to ask the clerk what this new sale is all about.

"well," she say's, "all you have to do is purchase this bag, and you can have whatever you want from the store if you can fit it into the bag!"

"That sounds Keen" I say as I pay my money and start walking around filling the bag she gave me.

As I am walking, I notice other people filling their bags, and filling up the extra bags they brought along, so I ask, "are you allowed to do that?"

"We sneak the bags in disguised as the other bags, they say we can have all we want off of these shelves, so we are taking what we are paying for!!!"

"So you know your not supposed to do it?" I ask.

"Of course we know, but they will never c...
Best. Analogy. Evar. Laughing
Hmmmm... no.

That doesn't work. With a cell phone you aren't paying for "what can fit in the phone." Data is formless and you can use as much as you want if you have an unlimited plan. The bags for this analogy should be bottomless to be similar to...

Mar 18, 2011, 9:20 AM

It's About Time.

The operative word used in this article is: "Unofficially"

Those that pay for tethering need not worry. Those that have hacked their devices and are tethering without proper authorization and payment plan, are "Stealing" from the carrier. These are the individuals that need to reset their MO in tethering practices.

I await the other carriers to implement the same direction.

John B.
its only stealing if its unlimited.
My carrier doesn't nickel and dime me for features I've already paid for. I purchased this phone. It has these capabilities built in. If I bought a car with air conditioning, I wouldn't pay the big 3 monthly for the "privilege" of cool air.

Data is data.

1GB = 1GB however you slice it. Doesn't matter if it's used on the phone or if it's used on the computer. I have an iPhone 4 and I got the 2gb data plan. Typically I go over 2gb and have to pay the extra $10 for an additional 1gb of d...

Mar 19, 2011, 6:03 PM

you gotta fight! for your right!

to tetherrrrrr

yeah, since tethering is in the constitution and people in the revolutionary war fought for us to be able to tether...right? cuz that's what i heard.
Hey now, that's just being snotty. We have a right to use what we've purchased. You wouldn't condemn me for riding a bike I just bought would you?

AT&T would want to tell me that my bike is mine to use as much as I want since I paid them the money,...
pickles said:
to tetherrrrrr

yeah, since tethering is in the constitution and people in the revolutionary war fought for us to be able to tether...right? cuz that's what i heard.

So, are you ready for your ...

Mar 19, 2011, 11:51 PM

Black people in the civil rights movement, womens sufferage, slaves, the original colonists

They all had it SOOOO easy compared to the AT&T customers getting stomped all over with this tethering business.
I dunno... I see it both ways. If I pay for "unlimited data", I think I should get unlimited data. Even if it's tethering. It's not like most people who tether are downloading 100's of blurays... they are sending and receiving emails. So, I don't agre...

Mar 19, 2011, 1:59 AM

To anyone who tries to hide behind the T&C:

I always notice a lot of people, for many companies and many situations, siding with companies on the premise of contracts and T&C.

Whether in free-market industries or industries that are heavily regulated (or have difficult barriers of entry), contracts (as well T&C) can be contested. If everyone simply accepts them on the premise "you signed it, therefore you are bound to it" then things will go south very fast.

In this instance, it comes down to challenging whether or not AT&T has the right to stipulate how you can use the data. It isn't as simple as "you agreed to not use it this way, so you can't tether." It is more on the lines of, are they allowed to stipulate this. The only real way to know this is to push the envelope ...
mycool said:
The only way I'd side with the carrier on this issue is in the instances of people tethering their device on an Unlimited data package.

In fact, the closest analogy I could come up with:

Some restaurants charge a
The second part of your post is very logical and I appreciate the analogy.

The first part is plain nonsense.

You DO have choices in this industry, regardless of whether or not you like your choices. As the poster tether pointed out in another t...
You mean I can essentially hire someone to do something for me (provide my cell phone voice and data service,) agree to the terms they give me for the service and then complain when they ask me to not break the agreement?

Its reaching a little far...
flip mode

Mar 18, 2011, 10:44 AM


drats. you can't steal from them? they should go to hell then. Rolling Eyes
They do suck! Seems like now would be a good time for them differentiate themselves & to retain some customers offering free, supported tethering with data plan purchase rather than punish loyal customers.
... ... »

slow your roll flip mode, you don't know what the eff you're talking about. thief.

Mar 18, 2011, 4:36 PM

I blame ATT and any other carrier

Why now for the crackdown? Where was this 5 yrs ago? ATT should have started this from the beginnning, now people are used to doing this.
at&t has told you all along that you couldn't tether without a proper tethering plan. they finally decided to be the tethering police, and now everyone is crying about it. if you violated your parole for 5 years and finally got caught, would you curse...

Mar 20, 2011, 9:30 AM

New terms? No.

Fight for your right to have the ability to break contract agreements with no penalties!!


This conversation is too funny!!!

Check it out; if you want to tether, BUY A PLAN THAT ALLOWS IT!!!

If you don't want to tether, DON'T BUY A TETHERING PLAN!!!

Bu don't buy a plan that does not allow tethering and try to tether!!

What is wrong with you?

Mar 18, 2011, 1:19 PM

Just sell the data

Why are they selling access to a feature instead of just selling the data? Who would pay a monthly fee to use "messaging" or use "calling" on top of the per text rate or the per minute rate? Why not just charge for a data rate (like they do for laptop connect) and be done with that. If i want to use my 200mb or 2 GB or whatever anyway I want...what business is it of theirs. Kill the unlimited and kill the tethering fee and just let them pay per use.
Exactly!! We really need a heavyweight like America Movil to come here directly (not as an MVNO!) to shake up these bozos. With 225 million customers (much larger than AT&T & Verizon COMBINED) & lots of revenue they could build out a massive 4G netwo...
kingstu said:
Kill the unlimited and kill the tethering fee and just let them pay per use.

I had a customer come into my store because he was on Daily Data, you only get charged if you use it that day, and ran up a ...

Mar 18, 2011, 10:31 PM

Hi, I'm J.G. Picklesworth

Do you have a structured data plan, but need data now? It's YOUR data, use it when you want to! Call me today, 1-800-DATANOW.

its MY data, and I WANT IT NOW!!!
Clever!!!! Wink
Now all you need is to get the Viking Opera singers all on a bus going to AT&T's World HQ.

BTW, that was fantastic.
"I have a data package and I want to log on now!"

Mar 18, 2011, 9:00 AM

This makes me glad I am with T-Mobile....

...although I am waiting, just waiting, for them to bring the hammer down on tethering too. Paranoid
well atleast if tmobile does you get unlimited for 14.99 not 2gb for 20 like att
T-Mobile did it before, but the workaround is easy by changing the browser agent.
They started doing that in november. They detect the useragent of the browser. If it shows a desktop browser like firefox or IE, it blocks it. If it shows a mobile browser, your good. Hit and miss on if they catch you. As usual, there are ways around ...
I hope they don't too (and doubt they will). After seeing some of the rotten things other cell companies do to their customers, T-Mobile is not bad at all. Glad I stayed with them through the years! Have had to sacrifice a little with nationwide da...

Mar 19, 2011, 4:25 PM

The difference between what is right and wrong and what is allowed.

1. It is wrong to charge for USB Tethering as it only using the data one would have used had they just gone on their phone. Using the All-you-can-eat analogy, its the same as paying for the buffet (food=data) and they tell you you can eat as much as you want, then they hand you a nice looking plate that you can use over and over again as much as you want to eat. (Plate=phone) You say thanks for the plate but I have a bigger one here that I brought from home that's easier to use and can carry more of the INFINITE FOOD you have just granted me. (Big plate=computer)

If I'm at home by myself why shouldn't I be allowed to surf the web with a larger screen and keyboard/mouse interface rather than a tiny touchscreen?

2. It is currently not al...

Mar 18, 2011, 10:18 PM

Fire AT&T & go to more data/tether friendly T-Mobile and Sprint...

Best way to punish AT&T for this aggressive anti-tethering policy is to just leave them for another carrier. In my experience, T-Mobile, Sprint, Sprints Prepaid Group's Virgin Mobile & Boost have all been friendly (not to mention fair) to tethering. While against their policies on paper, they do not enforce it and all have unlimited data, though T-Mobile's "unlimited" means 5GB. I don't know what planet AT&T is on with this? I mean their high-speed 3/4G nationwide data coverage (not just major metros) is tied with T-Mobile's for the worst. Why not then at least deal with TMO, a more data-friendly company? Or go with Sprint & get a larger high speed data footprint & unlimited data? The real sweet spot would be Verizon, but I don't know...
Really???? Everyone is a shark when it comes to this, the whole tethering for free deal will be gone completely sooner than later. Att is just the first to really say a whole lot about it up front. Vzw will follow, as far as the speeds Im not sure whe...

Mar 18, 2011, 11:16 AM

How do they know?

I apologize for asking if this is common knowledge to most people who post here, but how do they even know if you are tethering? Do they just assume "high volume=connected to a computer" or is there a way to tell?

I barely use my "unlimited data"- read emails (rarely compose replies), light facebook, and movie times- so I barely use my data, but honestly if someone wants to pay $600 for an unsubsidized phone with tethering as part of the OS (true Android, Symbian, maybe WebOS?) shouldn't that sort of be a perk?
ReschDMD said:
I apologize for asking if this is common knowledge to most people who post here, but how do they even know if you are tethering? Do they just assume "high volume=connected to a computer" or is there a way to tell?

This explanation came from Reddit:

For all you wondering how they can tell:
All IP packets have something called a TTL associated with them. It stands for Time To Live. Every "hop" along the network from one router to the next reduces the TTL by ...

Mar 18, 2011, 10:32 PM

Still gonna tether for free !!!!!!

They can say all they want, but I'm still gonna use the free tethering with my jailbroken iphone. Laughing
Whoo-hoo!!! Fellow rebel!! Let's stand up for what's right. Cool

Mar 18, 2011, 3:23 PM

read your T&C's ... »

if you have at&t and didn't read or understand this that your fault not at&t
I'm sure most people must not be like you & don't have the several hours necessary to read through legalese that an army of AT&T lawyers drafted up to avoid them having to invest in their network & stack the deck against customers.
Well if consumers did this in the first place we would not have several arguments going on! You realize your telling Americans to do something and you know there to lazy to! It's America man!

Mar 18, 2011, 8:56 AM

and why isnt the FCC telling ATT to knock it off their 4G BS??

on att map, it shows i have 4G coverage in bayarea, CA but i never get speedtest over 4mb!
speedtest on htc inspire 4G is the same as any 3G phones!
The original marketing was listed as "4G Like" see this article for more info: ... »
This is relevant to tethering how?
you did not ever get 4mb on 3g, keep dreaming
Find me ONE scientific source claiming to set absolute standards for 4G connection quality.

ITU gave up. IEEE doesn't care. It's a completely meaningless term.

"I'm wearing a 4G sock on my left foot!" is about as meaningful and accura...
Because the 4G network isn't even active yet. If you actually comprehended prev. articles on this subject, you'd know and stop trolling.

Mar 18, 2011, 9:20 AM

AT&T needs to learn the functions of Android b4 they claim users are doing somethin wrong

android 2.2+ INCLUDES Tethering in its OS as a standard feature.. this is of course USB Tethering..

Hotspotting is the only Paid Tethering Feature in Android... ATT needs to adjust its language..

USB Tethering is free, HotSpotting is paid.. therefore "Tether-ers" is an unfair term to Group everyone into.. only people Hotspotting for Free, via Jailbreaks, Rooting, and custom Roms are breaking any rules and avoiding fees..

it could be that PhoneScoop used the wrong language for the article though too... hey P.S. Hotspotting is what ATT wants to stop, since thats a feature they charge for, "tethering" via USB is free for android
While I would love to agree with you, it isn't true. Be it wireless or wired tether its a feature that AT&T and all other carriers charge for. And yes it sux.
Well you are both right and wrong. Yes in the 2.2 update they gave the ability for android devices to tether but AT&T and Verizon altered the update where you cannot use the tethering without purchasing the plan to do it. Of course this still can be d...
So my car will go 160mph so it's ok to go that fast because I paid for the car.. The customer agreement that you signed covers tethering, as do the agreements with all the carriers. Tethering without paying for it is stealing. My phone also has a came...

Mar 18, 2011, 1:54 PM

Tell me

If you are on AT&T and you have unlimited and you tether your device and use lots of data how is that wrong? It's unlimited.

Now I don't know how that works because I have Sprint and use between 10-15 gigs a month to tether for netflix ect... I have unlimited.

What is wrong with using the network to your advantage because you the customer are paying for it right???
well yes that is somewhat true. but the fact of the matter is your paying for the services that the company offers.

not the service you think that your due for paying.

if there is a charge for tethering there is a charge, so hence you would have...
If you go to a buffet and pay for one person yet your whole family eats, is that considered ok?

Each device may have unlimited, but it is kept separate in the computers. You may own the data plan, but allowing different family members(your devices)...
I agree 100%! Good for you too that Sprint has been so good with their customers about unlimited data use really being unlimited!

Mar 18, 2011, 3:00 PM

To which I have to say to AT&T--

--'suck it, thieves.'
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