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back to article AT&T ends illicit freetard handset tethering

AT&T is clamping down on subscribers who have jailbroken their iOS devices or rooted their Android handsets in order to tether their computers or tablets to the intertubes without paying for that service. "We've noticed your service plan may need updating," AT&T less-than-subtly tells unauthorized tetherers in an email obtained …

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FAIL

Oh look

Its the great "unlimited" plan again..... Any company which advertises unlimited plans should be frankly taken around the back of the bike sheds and given a good kicking.

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Tethering

It was unlimited but tethering was not allowed. So, they were not lying about the unlimited portion.

I have heard that one person was using over 300Gigs a month on his iPhoney. He used it to play Xbox live, download music, movies and just overall Internet browsing. People wondered why AT&T imposed caps.

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WTF?

Thesetelcos should learn from Finns

At least my Finnish operator provides unlimited data starting 10 Euros / month, and you can sign up for one month only. That gives me maximum 1Mbit down bandwith, but I can tether to my hearts content. By paying more I can get more bandwith.

That I call a fair deal.

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Hmm.

...and yet they're also sending this message to people on capped plans. How is it not then a simple money grab?

There's absolutely no good reason to charge someone for 'tethering', on a capped plan. It costs the provider exactly the same however those bytes are consumed. It's a money grab, pure and simple. Legal? Sure. Bullshit? Also yes.

In summary: be dumb pipes, already. Which, sadly, in most markets, will never happen due to the usual fear mongering about regulation.

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The data plan was unlimited.

Over 300G a month on an iPhone is a problem whether it was tethered or not.

I can see that AT&T has a case in that they sold the plan to one person, not many, and that tethering introduces the possibility that more than one person can use it. But that looks like a far dicier proposition to prove.

This one is going to wind up in US courts because they are the ones who ruled it was legal to jailbreak phones.

Full disclosure: I own an EVO HTC and have a paid tethering plan to go with my "unlimited" data plan, so no freetard here. Just someone fed up with the mess from the courts and the pigopolists.

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FAIL

for ONE F'ing person?

That's just insane.

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Flame

Oh BOO HOO

One person killed the network. Honest. We SAW them do it. We couldn't do ANYTHING to control it in any way. They just RUINED it for everyone.

Liar, Liar, pants on fire.

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speaking from the UK

Ouch!

And I thought our telco's were dirty thieving scumbags.

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Headmaster

Our telco's what?

see title

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Sorry, what?

People pay for a service (the connection). So long as they do not exceed whatever the agreed limits are, how they use that service is no ones business but their own.

If they are exceeding, AT&T should just charge them more.

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Problem

The problem with the "people pay for unlimited" argument is the Terms of Service says "unlimited" for the device in question. Not the device plus 5 friends. That's what the tethering package is sold for. You, as the user of the service, are not entitled to use it outside the scope of the Terms of Service. You might as well argue with your internet provider (cable, DSL, etc) as to why you can't resell your connection to your neighborhood and act as an ISP. You're paying for the internet connection, so why can't you share the love? Perhaps you're not even pushing something back out, merely letting your neighbors share your cable TV. Is this within your rights as a subscriber? No. Sorry. Doesn't work that way.

You buy a device and sure, you should have full power to do with it as you will (up to and including hitting it with a sledgehammer), but as a subscriber to a service, you can not use the service as if you own it. You're merely paying a fee to be able to use the service in a very finely described way.

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Problem? Maybe.

The data is still coming from the device in question though. There is a limit to how much data can be transferred over the connection no matter how many devices are tethered. If the customer is paying for x GB then it shouldn't matter how they use it. If the contract states you cannot tether then fair enough. If it doesn't it is AT&Ts problem, not the customers. O2 have pulled the same whine over here. Their contracts do not forbid tethering. Are AT&Ts the same?

As to your ISP analogy, my ISP does expressly state how you can share your connection. It can be shared with anyone in your household, but not outside that. Explicitly stated in the contract.

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(untitled)

This is explicitly stated in the contract too. You buy an "unlimited" plan that covers the phones data downloads, not downloads being passed through the phone.

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@Ammaross and @ Mechman

Well the answer is simple, isn't it? Don't sell "unlimited" if you cannot provide "unlimited". As I said, how the end user uses their bandwidth is no one's business but theirs.

So AT&T should perhaps just sell capped contracts (not this tethered/untethered crap). If people buy a 5Gb contract and blow it by letting their friends leech, then that is entirely their lookout. They should also be able to tether their phone to their own devices to avoid having to buy extra contracts and dongles just to get connection.

They want to re-sell? Still not a problem, so long as they have purchased enough down speed/data allowance to cope.

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The "plus 5" part is unproven.

If I were the sort of person to download movies from BitTorrent for my PC at home via my phone I could easily exceed "typical user +5 friends" usage. Still only me, just using the tethering for convenience. Landbased ISPs already essentially lost this battle. I expect the cell companies will too. They are essentially becoming ISPs but trying to apply teleco rules to it.

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Anonymous Coward

How?

I wonder how they can tell. Deep packet inspection of any web traffic to check the user agent perhaps, and assuming if it isn't a mobile browser that you're tethering? Any AT&T customers that are tethering but using a VPN tunnel (or just not using a browser on their tethered devices) able to confirm/deny whether they've received a warning too? Oh yeah, and totally agree that if you're paying for a utility, you should have the freedom to use it how you wish. Imagine if the gas company pulled shit like "Yeah, you can use the gas for your central heating, but if you want to use it with your hot water too, you'll need the special Gold Premier Heating Plus Extra plan..."

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Poor example

Actually they do. They will give you a discount if they can turn AC off. Some power companies charge you a premium if you go over 500 kwh a month. They don't sell the service as 500 kwh plus overages.

The terms stated no tethering. So the abusers should be happy that have gotten away with it for this long.

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@AC

>>"Imagine if the gas company pulled shit like "Yeah, you can use the gas for your central heating, but if you want to use it with your hot water too, you'll need the special Gold Premier Heating Plus Extra plan..."

You want a gas company analogy?

Maybe a better one would be:

Gas company installs a gas boiler and charges you a flat-rate £X/month for as much usage of the boiler as you want.

Someone drills a hole in the side of the boiler, taps in to the gas, and starts using lots of the 'free' gas to run their huge gas cooker, gas showers, gas patio heaters, etc.

Gas company tells them to stop, or pay extra.

Seems fair enough to me.

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@david wilson

Thing is, the tap has been taken on the house side of the meter, so the extra gas is counted. The gas company should just charge the home owner for the total. Owner's problem.

If the gas company was dumb enough to sell at a flat rate with no caps, then it is the gas company's problem.

Unlimited means unlimited. Pure and simple. We should not let companies alter our language to suit their own needs. I have no issue with caps, just don't sell a capped/restricted/limited service as f***ing "unlimited".

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More like..

The boiler has a crapton of capacity and you hired a plumber to have radiators in all your rooms, not just the kitchen.

And all analogies are bullshit.

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Bad example.

Someone drills a hole in the side of the boiler. Boiler goes boom. No user, no problem, but also no money for the gas company.

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@The BigYin

>>"If the gas company was dumb enough to sell at a flat rate with no caps, then it is the gas company's problem."

Though if the gas company made the terms clear in the contract, then it's the *customer's* problem.

Even when there's metering and explicit limits involved, if the contract is explicitly for a device which is likely to use a smaller fraction of the limit than if other devices were consuming as well, that is likely to have been a factor in calculating the pricing.

A company might offer a xGB/month pure-phone contract in the knowledge that few people apart from the heaviest users will use anything like xGB just by using a phone, so effectively, they're working out costs/profits/charges based on an expectation of a certain type of usage. If more than a few people connect other devices that add extra consumption, that does change the economics.

It seems perfectly fair to have an up to xGB phone-only contract and an xGB phone-plus-attached-devices contract and to charge less for the phone-only contract based on different expectation of average usage.

One way of looking at it is that the phone-only contract is effectively actually charging for a lower expected average usage, but having relatively more 'headroom' built in.

If that's the logic being used, *and* contracts are written accordingly, I don't see that a customer has much right to complain.

It wouldn't be realistic to be literal ("I paid for xGB!!!") and nonliteral ("I don't care what the contract says!!!") at the same time.

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@M Gale

>>" More like the boiler has a crapton of capacity and you hired a plumber to have radiators in all your rooms, not just the kitchen."

Which would be fine if that was explicitly allowed in the agreement, debatable if it wasn't, and definitely not fine if it was explicitly not permitted.

If a contract actually says "Doing X will cost extra", then doing X will cost extra, and if people dislike that sufficiently, then they can always take their business elsewhere if someone else offers a better option.

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Troll

"I pay for unlimited data"

Unfortunately they also signed a contract saying they would have to pay extra for tethering.

Damn sly telocs

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Signed contract?

Did they sign a contract saying tethering was extra? Or is the tethering just an additional tariff and the contract doesn't mention tethering? I have no idea. Do you?

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Contract

Yes, it does. They say up front tethering is separate and extra.

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How do they detect tethering?

As per title ...

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Bronze badge

How do they know?

I am sure there must be an undisclosed diagnostic bit in the phone's OS that periodically has to send a bit or bit flip on a pre-encoded pattern to the tower or the provisioning server. If huge amounts of data are streaming into and out of the tower for a handset that is not "envisioned" to be USB tethered, then check the USB port useage stats and other stats (such as the WiFi radio antenna being off or handling minimal traffic or no traffic). If it is active, and the phone is serving up 15 tabs of browers or 99 tabs when an Android internet browser supports only 4 tabs max and Dolphin HD only 9 or 10, while Youtube is streaming on an non-android/non-ios client, then presume the user is USB tethering. Something like this is how they know.

Google, Apple, and Samsung and HTC and others must have some chip or reader in the phone and are not openly informing us. Probably, some developers will come forward.

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detecting it?

It could simply that they look for the headers in the data.

If your Iphone has Safari on it, and all of a sudden the Telco sees "Internet Explorer" or "Firefox" in the headers, its doesnt take genius to guess its not running on the phone..

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FAIL

Be interesting to see how 'they know'

As just looking at headers such as the HTTP client is going to be easily fooled.

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Disagree..

While I oft-agree with your characterisation of freetards, I strongly disagree in this case.

AT&T are selling blocks of data -- already limited blocks of data. It seems like a cash grab to expect people to pay more depending on the device they use to consume them.

Just my two cents (per byte).

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Seriously?

OK, so I'm now that gas company, and when you buy gasoline for your car, I say that you can only drive it from home to work with one stop in between every other day. That's completely fair because I'm the gas company, and you're paying for my service to fuel your car. No problem there, right?

Fact is, UNLIMITED data should be UNLIMITED. If they want to charge specifically for the uses you put that data to, then we're getting into net neutrality issues. Additionally, they should have stated up front that the plans weren't actually unlimited and that you would be punished for heavy bandwidth use.

Why are organizations and people OK with companies like AT&T screwing the customer in the supposed name of "capitalism." Consumers have rights too--not just companies, quit fighting for the bloody people that are making a fortune, and start fighting for the ones that can barely afford the "unlimited" service in the first place.

Sheesh.

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As a gas station owner, it is not your concern

Whether a driver screeches to a mad halt or starts off like a jackrabbit. You have no vested interest in nor any power over a car or driver to make the driver bet gentler to the drive train or to not tear up the pavement. Even the tire manufacturers won't weigh in. One of them stands to sell new tires even in the face of the reselling of used or retread tires.

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OTOH, you DO have a vested interest and a duty

To ensure the ground storage tank is water- and sediment-free. You might want to provide periodically sanitized toilets, some good soothing music at the pump, and subliminally-sold peanuts and drinks.

Maybe we as users should in concerted fashion just boycott downloading non-text items for 3 days. Whomever each ISP is paying for surge bandwidth or fixed, minimally-available bandwith even before surge kicks in will probably become pissed. If we figure out how to do rolling bans, like dissidents of a sort, it might force the greedier of the execs to stop doing things like ponzi-scheme sign-ups that bankroll their tower rollouots based on doe-in-the-highbeams people.

But, it really is a laugh that South Korea and Japan and even other places in the world offer or can off better, faster, and cheaper fixed AND mobile access. It is insulting that my EVO 4G typically gets 500 to 2000 kb ps down, but cannot USB tether it, a feature that is built into the phone. If I want to tether, I have to pony up $25 more per month and do it wi-fi. Or, keep using my crap-ass sierra wireless card which cannot be software-upgraded. Only if i use iwnodows or mac can it be updated, by OS changes. Or, i can get a novatel chip. But, I'm torn between demanding my phone have wired/usb tethethering or having a separate, dedicated credit-card-sized gizmo like the upcoming Novatel card.

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Small country, small problem.

South Korea and Japan are both a lot smaller than the United States (Japan is about the size of California, South Korea that of Illinois) and a lot denser. Getting the critical mass needed to wire and air up countries that small is less of an issue.

Now take a country like the United States, with a large geographic area and vast areas of sparsely-populated land. I'd hate to be the one who gets tasked with running a high-speed like from Boston to Los Angeles...or worse, Miami to Seattle.

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Cars

You can actually use the car analogy for this, but not in the way you think. When you have a car you purchase insurance, my bike is insured for social only, so I'm not allowed to use it to commute nor for business, even though I've paid for my insurance I'm limited in how I can use my bike, if I want to commute, I have to add that option.

This tethering is like they have purchased their insurance but not bothered with commuting yet use it to commute to work, the insurance company is saying "hey, you got to pay for this" and you're saying "hell no!".

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@David

But you insurance was not advertised as "unlimited", was it? How pissed off would you be if you bought "unlimited" insurance and then discovered weasel-words in the micro-print?

Unlimited is unlimited - don't sell it if you cannot provide it.

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Grenade

History repeating itself...

Once upon a time ATT had the delusions that they will be able to charge extra for additional computers in the house. In those (10+ years ago) days ATT invested significantly into analysis and fingerprinting connections to detect NAT and try to charge the customers for the offence of having more computers connected to the internet than what they have paid for. And we all know what this ended up with - consumers having a ton of devices behind NAT.

Let's see if the history repeats itself...

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Also reminds me..

Of when Blue Yonder (now Virgin Media) had a rule barring you from hosting anything other than "personal use" servers over broadband, and no servers at all on dialup. That somewhat insane rule (almost as insane as running a server on dialup) didn't last too long!

Anyway, in some parts of the country, VM are still the only feasible choice for broadband so are a de facto monopoly. I understand AT&T are in a similar position. "You pays your money, you makes your choice" doesn't sound quite so justifying of onerous business practice in this case, surely?

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Unhappy

It is AT&T's network which is being used...

...and it is completely understandable that one has to pay according to the traffic he created on the network.

How that traffic is created, whether it comes from a router, a mobile phone, or me sending a constant '1' stream for several hours is none of their damn business. Any subscription terms which say otherwise should be subjected to legal review.

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Flame

haha thank Jobs

AT&T is gods way of punishing the Appletards for holding Jobs jock and not waiting for the iPhone to be available on a half decent network.

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Thought I'd look up 'tethering'..

..first, to make sure I understood. Yes I do. In Nokia-land (physical as well as phone-wise), it seems there's no restriction. Indeed, on the Ovi site There's An App. For That!(tm).

http://www.joiku.com/

Does the job admirably for the rare occasions when I, or a friend need it. I'm on 'all-you-can-eat' with Saunalahti, and haven't found anything in the small print to deny. Currently €10/mo. for access, the app (lite) is free. Premium might be worth it to keep unwanted grunts and freetards off my network, but...like I say, it's nice to have in the toolbox when needed.

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Flame

Cheaptards, maybe

So why don't you, the unnamed Techblog commentator, just pretend AT&T had burned down and choose another sponsor or maybe even pay full price for the phone? If you don't want to play by AT&T's rules, leave the game.

I would have ended with a smug comment about my N900 and how I feel morally superior, but alas, Nokia has left the right path, too.

Damn you, mass market! I don't need no Angry Birds!

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FAIL

This makes me happy!

Reading this makes me happy, happy that i'm a T-Mobile customer, I pay $25 a month and i get unlimited data usage and tethering, yes i said unlimited! T-Mobile it seems is the last / only company left on the planet who knows the definition of unlimited and has a grasp of what it means...

I know its a matter of time until T-Mobile falls to the dark side, at which time i'll consider my options, but for now i'm perfectly happy...

AT&T is a ripoff of the worst kind, i was with them for just under a year, and holy shit my bill doubled, as compared to T-Mobile, and their customer service was total shit (not as bad as sprint, but not far behind either), it was unreal...

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FAIL

Tmobile is no more

Hate to tell you this but Tmobile was just purchased by ATT

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@Wallyb132

>>"T-Mobile it seems is the last / only company left on the planet who knows the definition of unlimited and has a grasp of what it means..."

I think you mean "fortunately, their customer balance between light/normal and heavy users is currently enough for them to make the profit they want".

Whether they keep their service unlimited is going to depend less on their understanding of the definition of unlimited, and more on how their customers behave on average.

If they had a shitload of people joining them in order to make really heavy use of the unlimited+tethering offering, you could bet fairly safely that it wouldn't last at the current price.

The 'dark side' isn't solely an evil-corporate thing - a great deal comes down to the behaviour of individual customers, and whether there are enough light users to subsidise the heavy users.

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Pirate

sorry to be the one.....

oh deary, don't open the financial section tomorrow until after you've had a nice breakfast

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wallyb132

"Reading this makes me happy, happy that i'm a T-Mobile customer,..."

"AT&T acquires T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom for $39bn"

oops!

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Silver badge

Not exactly. They have what amounts to a preliminary agreement.

It still needs to be reviewed by the FCC and frankly, even as a free market conservative, I am doubtful I could sign off on this one.

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Exactly

"Very few things in life would make me happier than seeing AT&T burn to the ground."

Whole-heartedly agree. While at&t is within their rights to do so, IMO, they shouldn't. As consumers, our only real choice is to say "no more", because all the cell phone companies are doing more or less the same thing (as if that makes it OK). So maybe our option is to go back to landlines (at least those won't fry our brains and other body parts).

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