updated 09:25 am EDT, Fri March 18, 2011
ATT clamps down on unofficial tethering users
AT&T has begun sending messages to iPhone and possibly Android users it believes are tethering without paying for a matching plan. The notices tell subscribers that their service "may need updating" with the 4GB DataPro tethering plan since it believed they were using tethering but were still on one of the device-only plans. Subscribers were told to either stop tethering or else face being automatically signed up for the $45 tethering plan on the next billing period, which at least for OSXDaily was March 27.
The notices appear to have been targeted accurately so far and at least have been sent to those using MyWi, a jailbreak-only app that lets users make a hotspot without having to talk to a carrier. Other custom apps for iOS are likely to trigger the same notice. Android users might also face notices if they root their phones to enable the built-in hotspot support or use outside apps.
Rules about on-device versus tethered data are common in the cellular industry, but the approach has drawn flak from users who believe AT&T shouldn't have control over what software they use. AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon have usually argued that tethered or hotspot-enabled users consume more data, but carriers elsewhere, particularly in countries like Canada, usually allow tethering for 'free' with most plans.
AT&T hasn't commented on the notices, but its approach is less aggressive than actively blocking or discouraging third-party tethering options.