Tethering Thief Nonsense

Tethering Thief Nonsense

Summary: One of my colleagues argues that if you use tethering--using your smartphone as a Wi-Fi access point--without your carrier's permission you're stealing. I disagree.

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TOPICS: Telcos, Mobility, Wi-Fi
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My ZDNet comrade James Kendrick argues that if you tether--use your 3G or 4G phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot without permission--that you're a thief. Please. No. Just no.

When AT&T can charge users who have jail-broken their phones, such as an iPhone, to use them as mobile potshots, with a tethering fee, I don't see how that turns such users into thieves. At the end of the day, they're still stuck with the bill.

As a lawyer friend of mine put it, "The fact that it may be violation of the Terms of Service is merely a contractual breach; it's not necessarily 'illegal' to jailbreak a phone or to use it as a hotspot, never mind calling it 'thief.'"

Indeed, if I were going to throw the word 'thief' around, I think charging an additional a $20-$30 monthly fee for mobile hotspot service is the real thief here.

I'm not sure what the point is. As I understand it, carriers can now figure out if you're sharing a phone's 3G/4G connection anyway. The request for an additional Internet Protocol (IP) from your smartphone would be one dead simple way to spot it. Therefore, no matter how you do it, the carrier finds out and slaps you with an additional charge. You're not 'stealing' anything.

The carriers, who control all, are the one getting away with murder here. Unlimited data plans are rarer than hen's teeth, and like Verizon's January 2011 unlimited iPhone data plan they come with other limitations. The bottom line is that you pay a flat fee for some data and then additional, and usually horribly high, rates for anything over your limit.

I don't see why it matters if I use gigabytes of data on my phone or on my phone and laptop. At the end of the day, I still pay for it.

To me a data service is lot like my water line. I pay for what I use. Now I can drink that water, use it on my phone; wash clothes with it, use it on my PC; or shower with it, use it on my iPod Touch. Whatever. When all is said and done, I've still paid for the water or service and I've not stolen anything.

No, the real problem here isn't users. It's the carriers who charge us extra for the 'privilege' of deciding how we're going to use the data/water we receive from them. And, let's not even talk about how these carrier money-grubbing policies completely break network neutrality.

Related Stories:

The truth about tethering: Pay up or you are a thief

The tethering police are coming, unroot your phones

Paying for a data plan DOESN'T mean you can use it any way you want!

Net Neutrality alert: Verizon to throttle data speeds for heaviest users

Topics: Telcos, Mobility, Wi-Fi

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61 comments
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  • Message has been deleted.

    bc3tech
    • Governement solution

      In my country tethering is allowed, and beginning this year, You may use other people's unencrypted wifi spots. It was decided that just as insurancecompanies require You to lock Your door to keep thieves, unwanted visitors, animals, rain, storms etc. on the outside, in the same way You must lock Your internetconnection from outsiders. (If You are too stupid to do this, then You should not use computers etc.) But if You so choose to do so, You can let anyone in / use Your net, too. The only caveat is that You are responsible for what they do in Your house / with Your connection. If malware or hacking is done through Your open connection then You are held responsible. So, solutions exist, will You use them?
      Dukhalion
      • RE: Tethering Thief Nonsense

        It's pathetic really. The metaphor of water is also just the same. Why should it seriously matter how you use your data plan? <br><br>As for the requesting of another IP, this doesn't need to happen thanks to the private IP address space like 192.168.1.x. However carriers CAN inspect packets to see if your device is acting like a NAT device...and the packets the devices you've tethered with your phone will have it's internal IP address in the header anyway.<br><br>All of that being said, it's senseless that the wireless carriers have been allowed to act in this way about their service. <br>I can understand CAPPING users. This is not new, nor is it unreasonable so long as these caps are not buried in legalese in the TOS.<br>I can understand THROTTLING users, especially heavy users who routinely exceed their cap.<br>I can even understand a definition of FAIR USE even on an "Unlimited" plan, because you've got other customers' experiences to worry about, and a fair use clause isn't playing dirty if you make it obvious in advertising. Example of this would be "UNLIMITED DATA!" (Slightly Smaller text on next line says "Subject to fair use terms") They would make it obvious when you signed on with the service that, it's subject to some idea of fair use, and this definition of fair use would be made painfully obvious before any contracts are signed. This way it would give the consumer a chance to know that the carrier would not be able to fill their needs appropriately, consider a different plan, or a different carrier. Otherwise it's just deceptive business practices, which is actually illegal in the US<br><br>Still, on the matter of tethering, it's outrageous that they insist upon forcing users to pay for tethering. It would make more sense to simply throttle people who don't pay for tethering plans when the system detects that you've tethered, or exceeded normal usage patterns excessively.
        ZazieLavender
  • RE: Tethering Thief Nonsense

    It's a sad day when I agree with sjvn.
    Aerowind
    • RE: Tethering Thief Nonsense

      @Aerowind I was thinking the exact same thing.
      Rich Miles
      • RE: Tethering Thief Nonsense

        @Rich Miles

        Me too!
        jorjitop
    • Exactly, although his analogy could use some work...

      @Aerowind

      ...because why would you put water anywhere near your phone, PC or iPod Touch!

      "To me a data service is lot like my water line. I pay for what I use. Now I can drink that water, use it on my phone; wash clothes with it, use it on my PC; or shower with it, use it on my iPod Touch"
      DevJonny
      • RE: Tethering Thief Nonsense

        @DevJonny

        It was humorous, not realistic. Geez.
        Hallowed are the Ori
  • RE: Tethering Thief Nonsense

    Carriers, Music Industry, Apple... have all something in common.

    They hate to see users have a free choice when it comes to using the products they spent their hard earned cash on.
    tatiGmail
    • RE: Tethering Thief Nonsense

      @tatiGmail So don't spend your hard earned cash on them!
      Yensi717
    • Message has been deleted.

      Mectron
      • RE: Tethering Thief Nonsense

        @Mectron ... Uhh, you really should use both hands to type such close miinded nonsense.
        tom@...
      • Dang them Crminbals!

        You did mean Cannibals, right?
        boomchuck1
      • RE: Tethering Thief Nonsense

        @Mectron

        And of course the same thing goes for Verizon.
        kitkimes41@...
  • RE: Tethering Thief Nonsense

    This had got to be the first article you've written that I fully agree with. This is not about some fictional tethering bandwidth that the carriers have set up just for data but using the SAME allocated amount of data that any other function of the phone uses. IF there is any theft going on here it is on the carrier's side for double charging someone for a data plan and then tacking on a tethering plan... it all comes from the same amount of data.
    athynz
    • RE: Tethering Thief Nonsense

      @athynz
      +1
      I second you.
      Ram U
  • Its all about contracts

    Yes I know there are pages and pages of fine print...but if you agreed to it, you are bound by it. Its like any other contract. If you can't live with the terms, the solution is not to sign it anyway and then ignore it. The solution is to not sign it in the first place.

    How can you morally justify signing on the dotted line and then ignoring the terms? How would you react if the situation were reversed?

    This is a childish mentality that says "I want it and therefore I should have it".
    cornpie
    • RE: Tethering Thief Nonsense

      @cornpie

      Simple. If, in order for you to eat, you have to sign a contract that makes you pay 1.5 times your salary for the proivaledge to do so, you're going to do it. This analogy is far fetched to say the least, but the point is clear. I do not have an option that tells me exactly in laymens terms what I can and can't do for the very reason specified in the article: business want to bilk money out of their customers. If I know I'm going to be somewhere with no wifi for an extended period of time and i need to be connected, (family emergency, work, whatever), than a data plan might be necessary. Now something comes up and I need to tether my phone to my laptop but I don't have a plan, oh wait, the greed police say I'm breaking the law, but it's ok for a phone company to say unlimited is not unlimited. How many "unlimited" plans exist that have data caps? TONS. You can't re-define the term and an asterix doesn't change the def either. The corporations are breaking the lay with their fine print and lawyer speak. Fact is you are paying for the bandwidth usage, double-billing is illegal and that;s exactly what the phone companies are doing. If I don't use all the bandwidth I don't get money off my bill, but they can double-bill me for tethering while staying under my cap, that, by the way, shouldn;t be there because the plan states unlimited? No, illegal, pure and simple. There is such a thing as implied use and tethering to a phone is an implied use when you stay within your data cap.
      KBot
    • RE: Tethering Thief Nonsense

      @cornpie

      'This is a childish mentality that says "I want it and therefore I should have it".'

      Yes, and multi-billion dollar corporations and multi-million dollar lawyers should be held to a higher standard and be called to the carpet for that kind of behavior long before the average citizen.

      If they are allowed to double-dip charge for the type of data you attempt to download with your data plan it will very quickly degenerate to the point where they will charge you extra for downloading e-mail to your phone that is not handled by the carriers servers so they can screen it an serve up advertisements by 3rd parties that they've sold your keywords to...and it will all be "in the contract."

      'Yes I know there are pages and pages of fine print...but if you agreed to it, you are bound by it. Its like any other contract. If you can't live with the terms, the solution is not to sign it anyway and then ignore it. The solution is to not sign it in the first place.'

      Valid point. Which one of the carriers doesn't have pages and pages of fine print? In nearly any job higher than stock boy, your work will expect you to be reachable by cell phone in case of a supposed 'emergency,' so you have to pick one or severely limit your income potential. In fact, my kid applied for a not-much-better-than-minimum-wage summer job and they asked her for her cell phone number.
      Norm76
    • RE: It's all about the contracts

      @cornpie

      And as long as we do not question them and sit around and take it the carriers will continue to nickle and dime their customers on trumped up charges that really are not justified.
      bobiroc