AT&T to Unauthorized Tethering Users – Pay Up or Stop!

It was only a matter of time before carriers started getting wise about users tethering their phones without paying the piper (carrier). That time has come for many tetherers (for lack of a better term) on AT&T. They have been sending out emails to these users more or less saying we know you are tethering but are not paying for tethering. They offer users three options.

  • Stop tethering
  • Pay up and add a tethering plan
  • If you don’t stop we will simply add tethering to your plan

I am not sure if these users were only using jailbroken iPhone or Android devices or if it also includes BlackBerry users using apps like Tether or simply using desktop manager for tethering. This also does not bode well for the BlackBerry PlayBook which I can see carriers trying to tack on another $20-$30 a month for “PlayBook Tethering.”

Here is a copy of the email AT&T sent our courtesy of OSXDaily:


Dear [Name of Account Holder],

We’ve noticed your service plan may need updating.

Many AT&T customers use their smartphones as a broadband connection for other devices, like laptops, netbooks or other smartphones– a practice commonly known as tethering. Tethering can be an efficient way for our customers to enjoy the benefits of AT&T’s mobile broadband network and use more than one device to stay in touch with important people and information. 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.

If you would like to continue tethering, please log into your account online at www.wireless.att.com, or call us at 1-888-860-6789 Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. CST or Saturday, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. CST, by March 27, 2011 to sign up for DataPro 4GB for Smartphone Tethering. Here are details on the plan:

DataPro 4GB for Smartphone Tethering
• $45 per month (this gives you 4GB in total, combining both your smartphone data plan for $25 and the tethering feature, $20)
• $10 per each additional GB thereafter, added automatically as needed
• Mobile Hotspot capabilities are included for compatible Smartphones

If we don’t hear from you, we’ll plan to automatically enroll you into DataPro 4GB after March 27, 2011. The new plan – whether you sign up on your own or we automatically enroll you – will replace your current smartphone data plan, including if you are on an unlimited data plan.

If you discontinue tethering, no changes to your current plan will be required.

It’s easy to track your usage throughout the month so there are no bill surprises. For example, we send you free text messages when you reach 65, 90, and 100 percent of your plan’s threshold. If you would like to monitor your account more closely, go to www.att.com/dataplans to learn about other ways to track your data usage.

As a reminder, our smartphone data plans also include unlimited usage of Wi-Fi at no additional charge. AT&T smartphone customers can use Wi-Fi at home or on-the-go at any one of our more than 23,000 U.S. hotspots already included in your data plan.

Thank you for bringing your account up to date. We appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve your mobile broadband needs.

Sincerely,

AT&T

Please update your data plan by March 27, 2011 if you intend to continue tethering

To learn more and update your plan, visit att.com/dataplans

Reach us for assistance during business hours: Monday – Friday 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. CST Saturday 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. CST at 1-888-860-6789

Thanks to everyone who sent this in!

10 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. RIM needs to push back. Carriers are getting greedy.

  2. I haven’t received a notice yet but I’d probably stop tethering before I add it too my plan. I’m really starting to think twice about my cellphone and how much I really need…granted I have 3 siblings chipping their share but my bill is $170 most months, not much but it adds up to $2k a year.

  3. Uh oh…clear, here I come…

  4. I’ve not gotten a notice, but then when I do tether I don’t really exceed my normal smartphone usage — SSH, some browsing, RSS feeds. This does make me wonder if they’re detecting *actual* tethering, unusual spikes in data usage, or just *high* data usage.

    And if the latter – I’d love to know if anybody who uses close to their limit but does NOT tether received a tethering notice?

    Another question too: if it’s that big a deal, why don’t they just revoke the service book that allows it? My understanding is that Verizon blocks it in this way?

    • Yes it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Will the onus be on ATT to PROOVE a user is tethering in violation of their contract? All the big 4 have contract provisions that say you can’t tether without paying for a tethering plan.

      I wonder too about the technological means of determining a user IS tethering. I’ve surmised all along that the carrier CAN tell through packet analysis and such, which would flag those that tether via the traditional “phone as modem” means. But does that also catch those who tether with an app such as Tether? As example whatever it is Verizon does blocks the “phone as modem” method, but does not block Tether.

      Service Book method for blocking would take care of BlackBerry tethering abusers, but I’m not sure such a corollary applies to iPhone and Android, especially if a jailbreak has been applied. Then again the amount of BlackBerry users violating contract by tethering is probably miniscule compared to the other platforms.

  5. I’ve had an unlimited plan for years and have occasionally had unusually high volume of data. I don’t remember anything mentioned in my contract that prohibits using my phone as a modem.
    AT&T charges outrageous amounts for data as it is. I used to pay T-Mobile 50% less for the same service.
    Now, with the imminent merger of the two, I don’t foresee anything good coming out of it.

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