AT&T: No More Unofficial Data Tethering

AT&T is cracking down on jailbroken iPhone users who tether their phones to other devices for free.

According to OSXDaily, users of unauthorized tethering apps, such as MiWi, are receiving letters that present two options: stop tethering, or start paying $45 per month for a DataPro smartphone plan, which includes tethering.

Tethering allows users to let laptops or other devices use a smartphone's data connection, either by USB or Bluetooth. For this service, AT&T charges $20 per month on top of its basic 2GB, $25 smartphone plan, and gives users an extra 2GB to play with.

But for a long time, users who jailbreak their iPhones -- that is, install a hack that allows the installation of apps from outside the iPhone App Store -- have been able to circumvent this policy with unofficial tethering apps, such as MiWi. The letter effectively warns these users that the free ride is over.

"We've noticed your service plan may need updating," the letter says. (I love the passive-aggressive tone there.) "To take advantage of this feature, we require that in addition to a data plan, you also have a tethering plan. Our records show that you use this capability, but are not subscribed to our tethering plan."

Users who continue to tether will be automatically enrolled in the $45 per month plan, the letter says. For users who are still have an unlimited data plan, this will also put them onto a capped data plan.

AT&T has confirmed the letter's authenticity. "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," spokesman Seth Bloom told PhoneScoop. "Our goal here is fairness for all of our customers."

AT&T's terms of service clearly state that unofficial tethering apps aren't allowed, so the carrier isn't doing anything unethical. But I always like to point out that charging customers to tether their phones while also capping their data is double-dipping. Customers should be able to use their data allotment however they please. So while I can't fault AT&T for upholding its terms of service, the threat letters aren't making the carrier look any better.

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