Verizon: No free tethering for unlimited data plan customers

Verizon: No free tethering for unlimited data plan customers

Summary: It turns out that Verizon will still be charging unlimited data plan customers if they want to share their 3G and 4G connections by tethering with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB-empowered devices.

Verizon declares there will be no free tethering for its unlimited data plan customers.

For Verizon's remaining unlimited data customers, it's turned out that Verizon being required to offer free tethering -- letting other devices share a 3G or 4G connection via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB -- was too good to be true.

According to Verizon, customers with unlimited data plans must still pay the $20 a month fee to Verizon before they can share their connection.

Debra Lewis, Verizon's director of public relations, said in an e-mail: "The tethering fee charged by Verizon Wireless reflects the fact that customers who tether multiple devices may be expected to use more data than customers who do not."

She added: "Under the terms of the unlimited data plans, customers are not limited in the amount of data they can use with a single device, but if they choose to tether additional devices they are required to pay an additional fee to account for the greater usage. Our service is called Mobile Broadband Connect."

Verizon is no longer offering unlimited data plans. Instead, the network giant is now offering Share Everything plans that offer unlimited voice and text, but doesn't offer unlimited data options. These plans do include free tethering, however.

Customers with grandfathered 3G and 4G unlimited data plans will still have to pay. Of course, with these plans your network bandwidth has been effectively throttled since last fall.

I also asked Verizon when they'd implement the new tethering policy for customers; if they'd offer refunds to customers who had been paying for Mobile Broadband Connect; and if customers using third-party tethering applications would still need to call Verizon customer service to activate tethering.

Lewis replied:

Verizon Wireless provides our customers with the most advanced wireless broadband services available over our next-generation 4G LTE network. We have invested billions of dollars in technology providing customers with an open platform that encourages robust innovation and choices to meet their needs.

We have made clear to our customers that when using our services, they can go where they want and do what they want on the Internet, using the lawful applications and devices of their choice.

Verizon Wireless has always allowed its customers to use the lawful applications of their choice on its networks, and it did not block its customers from using third-party tethering applications. This consent decree puts behind us concerns related to an employee's communication with an app store operator about tethering applications, and allows us to focus on serving our customers."

Earlier, Rich Young, Verizon’s director of media relations for human resources issues, told The New York Times that Verizon had not blocked customers from using third-party apps. Verizon blamed third-party tethering apps being blocked on an employee who had been working with the Google’s Android app store operators. Lewis continued:

We still offer Mobile Broadband Connect, and the fee applies to customers using unlimited data plans. If a usage-based customer wants to subscribe, or continue to subscribe, to Mobile Broadband Connect, they can do so. They get both a high-quality robust tethering app and additional data allowances. On the other hand, a usage-based customer that wishes to tether other devices but does not wish to subscribe to Mobile Broadband Connect can cancel the service, purchase or obtain a third-party tethering application, and simply pay for the additional data usage.

If that seems like it's not really answering my questions, which are the same ones many Verizon customers are also asking, I'd agree with you, Verizon isn't being explicit about its new data tethering plans.

As for AT&T, they're not bound by the FCC agreement. As an AT&T press representative said, "this issue relates to the open access requirements that were attached to the C-block spectrum Verizon purchased. We do not have C-block spectrum." (I presume they will continue to charge for tethering for the time being.)

What all this means is that if you have an unlimited Verizon plan you're still going to be stuck with a tethering fee. If you have an older restricted data plan, though, you will be able to freely share your bandwidth with third-party applications. You'll just need to keep in mind that you'll pay for the extra bits if you go over your monthly bandwidth limits.

And, finally, what Verizon would really like from all of this is for you to switch over to one of its Share Everything plans.

Related stories:

Topics: Verizon, 4G, Mobility, Networking, Smartphones, Tablets, AT&T, Wi-Fi

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  • Share everything is a better model for tether.

    However, they came to this by the back door. Should have been this way from the start. Another public relations mistep for Verizon. Bandwidth ain't free so someone has to pay for it. I suspect a mistake by the greedy marketing arm that did not consult with operations. What? They didn't think people would actually use the free service?
  • Sounds like . . .

    . . . a reverse Skype like app for sending/receiving data via voice is in order. Gentlemen, start your coding!
    • It's called a modem

      Us old folks remember when the only way to get online was through a voice line. At most, 56kbps, and we liked it!
    • it's called...

      a MODEM!!!!!
      • whoops.. read first

        then comment
  • This is not a change in policy at VZW

    When the unlimited data plan was dropped for new customers, there weren't any 4G smartphones on the market. Now that there are some 4G smartphones, if you want to upgrade to one, and get 4G coverage, you MUST sign-up for their new limited data plans.

    Most users use under 2GB of data per month so that is the sweet-spot in the new (more expensive) unlimited talk & text plans with data.

    VZW does seem to still offer 450-minute individual plans with basic phones but everything else is either Prepaid or Shared Data.

    Times change and costs go up. Grandfathered or not, if you want more data, you have got to pay for it. VZW knows that it needs from each customer and customers will pay it or switch networks. The differences in prices between ATT and VZW are small and affect very few customers and the remaining US carriers don't have the coverage for most customers.
    M Wagner
    • Get your facts straight

      Unlimited data was still available when the HTC Thunderbolt came out. Anyone smart would have bought the troubled device just for the unlimited data. The additional tethering plan was unlimited as well. So, from then on, if you were ok just buying the newer 4G devices at full MSRP, you'd keep that unlimited data.
      • Correct

        Unlimited 4g data was available for a limited time when some of the first Verizon 4g phones came out. And this data plan is grandfathered so you still have unlimited data as you upgrade your phone.
    • incorrect

      If you had a verizon unlimited plan already, you can switch to a 4g device and keep your unlimited plan, I know because I did it. I just got 4G in May of this year, and I still have an unlimited plan
      • 4G unlimited data with tethering

        I heard about Verizon eliminating unlimited data when upgrading for ma 3G to a 4G device this summer, so I quickly upgraded to the Droid Razr before the change went into effect in late July 2012. I called today to see if I pay $30/mo for the tethering option, which effectively turns my RAZR into a mobile hotspot, would my unlimited data carry over for that, and I was told yes. Apparantly I am in the small percentage of customers who have this option available. I asked them about keeping my unlimited data forever, and when you upgrade again, you do lose it. The unlimited data is worth it to me, and Verizon really offers no bonus for upgrading except the subsidized price with a new contract, so from here on out I will be buying my phones at MSRP.
        Amanda Ridley
        • Unlimited data grand fathering

          And those Verizon customer service reps when trying to swindle you into upgrading by dangling that nice new smart phone in front of your face will not tell you about the bad aspects of getting there new "improved" plan such as whoops we forgot to mention no more unlimited data! Yes I was one of those suckered out of his unlimited plan and still have a sore spot from it. If your someone like me who lives in the country and Verizon is the only provider other then maybe at&t that can get you decent speed your really at there mercy! And there not merciful lol.. On a typical month I use around 35 gigs of data at least and that's not including my wife and kids computer usage which would add at least another 35 gigs. Do you know how much that would cost with Verizon's current limited data package? I'm not even going to try and do the math but it would be a very large number like let's say car payment size if not more, so the guys that have the unlimited are saving an incredible amount of money to say the least unless I'm missing something.
    • Rebuttle to "This is not a change in policy at VZW"

      You don't have to change from an unlimited to a limited plan to have a 4g phone. You can have a 4G phone on an unlimited plan, you just have to pay an unsubsidized price for your phone when you upgrade.
      Joshua Blagden
  • So what's better?

    Unlimited data and paying for tethering?
    Limited data and free tethering

    At the end of it your likely spending more with limited data and free tethering as your just consuming data faster.

    Really I'm sick of people acting like wireless data is the same as broadband. It's not and is priced accordingly. Don't like it - write to your state / federal officials to push for a national WiFi network that is covered by taxes etc. Heck I'd legalize pot and use those funds to build out infrastructure to advance our countries technology footprint.

    We're pinions that big business can squeeze as they see fit. To think otherwise means your not paying attention.

    There is no free lunch.
    • Why do you think that, government offers a free lunch?

      Going with a government built and government controlled WiFi network, built with taxes, isn't going to make things any better. In fact, it would make things a lot worse, since, whatever government touches, turns to crap, and more expensive at that. Plus, you'd be doing all of your communications through a bunch of government services, which means that, every byte that you send through government wires and government WiFi, is being watched, very closely.

      So, instead of advancing our infrastructure, you'd be getting worse infrastructure than what you might be complaining about now.

      Besides, when it comes to government services, why should taxes be used to build something that, half of the people would not be paying a thin dime for, but, they'd be getting the same benefits as the highest paying taxpayer. Why should people be getting "free" internet, and free TV?

      Also, have you noticed that, we have a horrendous economy at the present? Where would you get the taxes for such a government system? You can't draw blood from a corpse after Dracula (government) has already had its fill. Our government is already having to borrow over 40% of the money required to fund its operations. Which means, there is nowhere else that they could think of to take money from, so, borrowing is the only recourse. Raising taxes is another option for getting more funding, but then, you'd be sending the economy into a much deeper dive than it's in currently.

      Having said that, it would be nice to get everything for "free". So, why don't you be the first to send your money to Washington so that I can start towards that "free" service?
      • My internet fails all the time. God bless capitallism and American pie.

        I never see my Norwegian relatives griping about internet connections or people charging you for the privilege of not turning off built-in functionality in your phone (yes MobileAdmin, it actually IS the same data - Verizon's Network doesn't touch it at the point your phone, not Verizon, broadcasts it). They are not sending you two kinds of data or they'd be able to charge you for it when you brought your own phone into a plan without signing their leased-phone contracts. I'm a web developer. I know how it works. If you're any kind of IT admin, you should know too.

        But Adornoe, is it really such an absurd idea to have a mixed economy where we go free market when the profit motive serves to provide better goods/services for lower prices and then something more socialized/heavily-regulated when all it does is hand people de facto monopolies that get little more than slaps on the wrists for abusing customers and making money for nothing?

        Insurance for instance. When the key profits are achieved by denying care, why are we surprised that insurance contracts come in book form full of loopholes and odds and ends insurers can use to dodge their obligations?

        And yes, why not hold telecoms a little bit more accountable when they effectively defraud the tech-illiterate by charging for things they don't actually do. 20 bucks a month from how many people, to not turn off built-in functionality in your phone? How do you defend 1.25 million as a penalty? That's not even a fraction of the percentage of profits that went into their pockets through what amounts to theft, IMO.
        Erik Reppen
      • Somewhat off topic...

        Your faith in business people to do anything to benefit customers or the nation or even the planet as a whole is touching. Look at healthcare.
  • 3rd party wifi data app vs. verizon's

    My understanding from the verizon call center person that I spoke with yesterday moments after the news broke out is that Verizon can only charge you if you enable the WIFI Hotspot via the embedded Mobile Hotspot app on your phone. In order to turn that Mobil Hotspot feature on, they can charge you the $20 per month. However, if you download and install a free 3rd party app (like FoxFi) they cannot charge you and they cannot block you from doing it either. From what if you can read in between the lines that the muckity mucks from Verizon are saying, it pretty much backs up that theory. In fact, yesterday I downloaded and installed FoxFi and have been using it ever since. I did not have to call Verizon to enable the Mobil Hotspot app, so I don't see how they can charge me for using it. Time will tell.
    • wifi tethering

      Yeah I've been using foxfi also for a couple of months and haven't been charged for it. Love that Foxfi! Works great. Of course in my case running wifi to my desktop sucks down data like crazy. I'm trying to figure out a way to keep my speed down so it doesn't use so much but still give's me decent video if that makes any sense.
  • Would you please go away and learn...

    ... the difference between bandwidth and throughput? Geez.
    • To save you the trouble of looking up something yourself...

      I offer this for your edification:


      "In computer networking and computer science, the words bandwidth,[1] network bandwidth,[2] data bandwidth,[3] or digital bandwidth[4][5] are terms used to refer to various bit-rate measures, representing the available or consumed data communication resources expressed in bits/second or multiples of it (kilobits/s, megabits/s etc.).

      Note that in textbooks on signal processing, wireless communications, modem data transmission, digital communications, electronics, etc., the word 'bandwidth' is used to refer to analog signal bandwidth measured in hertz — the original meaning of the term.[citation needed] Some computer networking authors[who?] prefer less ambiguous terms such as bit rate, channel capacity and throughput rather than the colloquial use of the word 'bandwidth' for bit/s, to avoid this confusion."
      Dave S2