AT&T set to crack down on illegal tethering

AT&T set to crack down on illegal tethering

Summary: Bad news for anyone tethering jailbroken iPhones to their computers: it's time to pay up.


AT&T is fed up with subscribers jailbreaking their iPhones only to then tether the smartphones to their computers and other Wi-Fi-enabled devices for unlimited data. Obviously, this is costing AT&T a lot of money, so now the wireless provider is turning around and sticking the bill to the culprits.

That bill will come in the form of an automatic transfer to a tiered plan without unlimited data for those who don't quit and are caught. (You might be wondering why unlimited data is even relevant as AT&T nixed that option awhile back. This concerns customers who were grandfathered in with the unlimited data still in tact last year.)

Here's AT&T's official response to 9to5Mac about illegal tethering:

Earlier this year, we began 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 letters outline 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

The rumor, as it stands, is that AT&T will start cracking down officially on August 11. Only time (or AT&T) will tell.

AT&T also recently confirmed that it would begin throttling data speeds for the heaviest users who still have the unlimited data plans, likely in anticipation of more traffic if/when the iPhone 5 drops this fall.


Topic: AT&T

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: AT&T set to crack down on illegal tethering

    How do they know if user is tethering?
    • RE: AT&T set to crack down on illegal tethering

      @paul2011 since iPhone is not really your device, AT&T knows every little thing people have running on their device, including the fact that the iPhone has been jailbroken
      • RE: AT&T set to crack down on illegal tethering

        @mikies why isn't it 'your' phone?
    • RE: AT&T set to crack down on illegal tethering


      A simple packet analysis would tell quite easy. For example, traffic coming from IE9 when there is no IE9 available for the iPhone would be proof of tethering.
  • AT&T is wrong in my opinion

    tethering should be free. You pay for data service, how that data flows shouldnt be an issue. If i pay for 2 GB a month, whether that is directly from my phone or my computer tethered to it shouldnt matter. I paid for that service, i should get it.
    • RE: AT&T set to crack down on illegal tethering

      @tiderulz... While I agree with you, this is a tired argument. The only way this will change is if one of the smaller (Sprint/T-mobile) start allowing it to pull over those users. If they were to do it and were to gain enough traction with it, Verizon and ATT would eventually follow suit to keep from losing users. In the meantime, if you accept the terms and conditions of your service, there is really nothing to complain about. Write a letter to your carrier expressing your discontent...:)
    • RE: AT&T set to crack down on illegal tethering

      @tiderulz Then simply don't buy a smartphone. If people exercised their right as a consumer (which is not to buy) the business will change their ways. However, people buy them in droves and pay for said tethering. I completely agree with your sentiments, however that's not the current business model.
    • RE: AT&T set to crack down on illegal tethering


      No, tethering adds extra traffic, and a lot of traffic at that, to the network. It chokes the ability of other users to use bandwidth. Who's going to pay to expand the network if users that are using extra bandwidth are not paying for that extra bandwidth? Should everyone have to pay because you feel entitled to use all the bandwidth you want? You paid to use data on your phone. You did not pay to use data on your notebook unless you purchased one of those USB devices, or paid for a tethering plan. The network is designed to support the traffic from your phone, not traffic from your phone and everything else you want on the Internet.
      • RE: AT&T set to crack down on illegal tethering

        @freeman108 your very ignorant. Using data on your phone is the same as using it on your laptop. If you paid for 2GB then u should get 2GB. For you to have to pay again for the same 2GB is simply a scam. Considering that the software for the tethering doesn't make your mobile internet go faster. Therefore using the data on your phone is the same as using it on a regular computer in the sense that there is no extra load.
      • RE: AT&T set to crack down on illegal tethering


        I don't pretend to be an expert on the subject, but I am a network technician for Ricoh Americas. In addition to being a customer who wants to tether (and do so freely), I also understand how bandwidth works. How many people do you know who tether and actually stay within their allotment of bandwidth usage? 2gigs is not a lot of usage. Stream multimedia and you will eat through that in no time. With little effort one can burn through 2gigs of use in a few hours. I would agree that tethering should be allowed for free if people stayed within their allotment of bandwidth. Unfortunately, enough people who tether do not stay within their allotment and it does add a strain to the network. Adding bandwidth and changing network infrastructure is expensive. It has to be paid for some kind of way. It makes sense to charge the users who want the extra bandwidth to pay for it. It's either that for embed the extra charges into everyone's cost. That's not fair. Then again I'm ignorant. What do I know?
    • RE: AT&T set to crack down on illegal tethering

      @tiderulz I was just about to say this. Paying for tethering is just another way for them to charge you for nothing at all.
  • Who says tethering is illegal, the FCC or FTC?

    AT&T is very greedy and highly profitable. They will nickel and dime customers for anything and everything.

    They can get away with a lot, including cramming because they are providing services to HomeLand.

    Further, AT&T gives congressional leaders a break in services. Thus while congress is kept happy, the rest of us are forced to deal with the monopoly or go through the useless FCC.

    Sure consumer can excercise the right to switch. But in the end, AT&T has their greedy hands in everything including providing their services to the competition.
  • Headline is misleading.

    It is not "illegal" it is "in violation of terms of service" - there is a mountain of difference there.
    • RE: AT&T set to crack down on illegal tethering ACTUALLY - it could be deemed "illegal" depending on State law. When you violate the terms of service to gain additional services (and tethering is being treated as a "ala carte" service) it could be deemed "theft of service" which is criminal because said additional service has a fixed dollar amount.
  • on the payroll?

    So Rachel, how much did AT&T pay you to copy and paste this story? You're using words like "illegal", "culprits" to depict ordinary customers as vicious criminals while saying that the company is "fed up" like some put-upon, lenient, and real person.

    Tethering does not cost AT&T any money. That's like a mugger saying that every person he doesn't attack and rob costs him money.
    • RE: AT&T set to crack down on illegal tethering

      I agree with you on all points. We have personification of a company through a ZD official - not good - obvious bias.

      ATT and other carriers are not losing money - just trust that they will ever be good stewards of their bandwith. It is the consumer that is being cheated on the data transfere issue and any other area where the communications giants put their big toe over the line.

      A customer coop for data transmission could be the answer on getting fair treatment.

    • RE: AT&T set to crack down on illegal tethering


      How can you say tethering does not cost money? Where does the extra bandwidth come from? Based on your argument I should be able to go home and use all the water I want for a flat rate because 75% of the world's surface is water. It does not cost anyone anything extra for me to use all the water I want.
    • RE: AT&T set to crack down on illegal tethering

      @Hobyx I like your logic
  • RE: AT&T set to crack down on illegal tethering

    There should be a fair way to charge for tethering, If I only use 3 hrs of tethering in any 6 month period, then I should only be charged for those hrs...not $30 a month for a service I would only use a couple times a year while on vacation at Moms house where there is no internet connection.
    • LMAO

      @studio52@... <br><br>While I completely agree, its almost worth the $30 a month to avoid the frustration of logging into Moms wireless router ... she doesn't even know it has a password.<br><br>If I'm even in the neighborhood and her computer quits working its my fault ...