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Tethering Thief Nonsense

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.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

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

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