AT&T cracking down on jailbreak tethering? [UPDATE]

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Here’s something sort of unexpected… A few people have received text messages from AT&T saying that, to tether a smartphone to a computer, it requires a tethering plan. The ones who’ve received these messages are all jailbroken, and use MyWi, a jailbroken application to allow Internet tethering over WiFi, USB, and Bluetooth, for their Internet tethering needs.

Continue reading to find out more about this.

One of the users who’ve received the text message also received a message via email:

Dear [Customer],

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 Cell Phones and Cell Phone Plans – Wireless from AT&T, 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 afterMarch 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 towww.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

Nobody’s 100% sure as to what’s going on here, but I’m automatically going to assume that those who’ve received these messages are heavy data users, and use tethering quite often. I, myself, can easily go through at least 12GB of 3G data per month. Probably about 15% of that data is being used via tethering (in emergency situations, or whenever regular WiFi isn’t avaialble). I’m sure most of you will consider that to be a lot, but I haven’t received anything from AT&T about this. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. But, I think that these guys are heavy tethering users.

It also probably isn’t just MyWi users who may be affected. There are a few other tethering solutions, such as PdaNet, and TetherMe (which enables native Internet tethering (4.2.1 and below) or the Personal Hotspot feature (4.3 and up)).

I’ve reached out to AT&T for a comment, and haven’t received anything back. I’ll update this post if I ever get a reply. See the update below.

What can we learn from this at this point in time? Keep your tethering usage to a minimum :).

UPDATE
I’ve received a reply from AT&T, and they are basically just trying to keep everything fair for their customers (those who are actually paying for tethering):

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.  (This impacts a only small percentage of our smartphone customer base.)
 
The letter outlines three choices:
1) Stop tethering and keep their current plan (including grandfathered unlimited plan)
2) Proactively call AT&T or visit our stores and move to the required tethering plan
3) Do nothing and we’ll go ahead and add the tethering plan on their behalf — after the dated noted in their customer notification.

I then asked if AT&T had a way for checking if someone is using tethering, and here’s the reply:

The ability to manage our network and enforce our policies enhances the quality and consistency of the customer experience; this is nothing new.  In this case, our network is able to determine if a smartphone customer is using the device as a broadband connection for other devices.

Bottom-line: If you really must tether, subscribe to a tethering plan (although they’re quite overpriced).

[Via ModMyI, TiPB]

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