AT&T Cracks Down on Free Tethering and Hotspots

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AT&T is putting the boot down on customers who tether their smartphones or turn them into Wi-Fi hotspots without paying extra for the servi

9to5Mac heard from several readers who are being kicked off their unlimited data plans for using free tethering apps such as MiWi for jailbroken iPhones or PDANet for Android handsets. AT&T is reportedly sending notices to these customers, informing them their plans will switch automatically to a $45 per month DataPro plan on August 11. The carrier discontinued its $30 unlimited data plan last summer, but allowed existing subscribers to be grandfathered in.

An AT&T representative wouldn't confirm the hard cut-off date to 9to5Mac, but did acknowledge that it's now cracking down on free tethering. The carrier started sending ultimatums to customers earlier this year, but with a lovely passive-aggressive tone. ("We've noticed your service plan may need updating," the letters began.)

AT&T isn't the only carrier that's taking a hard stance against free tethering. Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and AT&T have all strong-armed Google into hiding free tethering apps from the Android Market--but only on smartphones sold by those carriers. Verizon also reportedly shows a warning page when it catches a user tethering without paying, and provides a number to call and set up a mobile broadband package.

To be clear, AT&T has the right to crack down. The carrier's customer agreement says that it may terminate or modify a customer's service for unauthorized tethering. And I can't really begrudge carriers for enforcing those terms, even if they seem unfair. You can always take your business to T-Mobile or Sprint, who haven't been as aggressive--at least, not yet.

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