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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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Anonymous Coward

VPN

Unless AT&T have a problem with users using a VPN, could one potentially route all traffic through that and AT&T wouldn't be any the wiser as to the contents of the data stream from that phone?

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You signed the contract, now suck it up

Alternatively, find some way of switching the browser User Agent, which off the top of my head is about the only way I can think of that they would be able to tell ? If only there were some kind of firefox extension for that.

I think the carrier tethering policies are dumb to the point of self harm, O2 want GBP 7.50/month (down from 15, ISTR) for 500GB, I can buy twice that much PAYG for a tenner, so no sale, but still, see title.

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You signed the contract, the contract doesn't forbid it.

The thing with O2 is, or at least was, that there is nothing in the contract that states you cannot tether. There is a section that states you cannot put your sim in a modem (no tethering is not the same as this, your sim is not being placed in another device which is what the clause is discussing) but that is not being done. Therefore if you can get your phone to tether without paying O2 extra then they have no case against you, you are not in breach of contract.

The best AT&T can legally do in my non lawyer opinion is terminate the contract with the appropriate notice period if they expressly forbid tethering in the contract. If not they have no leg to stand on. Either way they also have no basis for automatically charging for a service that was not agreed to by the customer.

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FAIL

YANAL

You are wrong in all your assertions, until you understand construction of contract you need to stop making assertions predicated upon your ignorance.

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RU AL?

If you are so expert on these things, instead of just telling someone else they are wrong why don't you explain why or offer an alternative explanation / viewpoint / opinion?

If you give some convincing reasoning then people will be more likely to see where you're coming from.

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Headmaster

Verizon did this ages ago...

When I experimented with tethering on my Droid, the only webpage i could see was one saying "you need to have tethering added to your data plan" - this was at least a year ago. Which sucks, because I then asked, and I apparently can't get tethering added to my data plan.

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@Verizon did this years ago

True, if you enable tethering via the OS, you'll get routed thru Verizon. But you can tether via the PdaNet app for free - no need to root your phone. Works great on my droid1.

http://www.junefabrics.com/android/

Can anyone explain why it's legal for AT&T to differentiate, given net neutrality laws? I get that you sign a contract, but if that contract runs afoul of NN laws.........?

Anyone see the article about AT&T's 4G service being slower than 3G? If that's not false advertising, it's at least shady. I'll be staying well clear of their services.

http://www.geek.com/articles/mobile/atts-4g-smartphones-are-actually-slower-than-the-3g-iphone-4-20110314/

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@Verizon did this ages ago

Really , cause when I plugged my laptop into my Verizon cell phone and opened up fire fox I got redirected to page asking me to pay $49.99 a month for tethering . Oh and have you looked for tethering programs in the market place? Cause programs like easy tether pro allows you to do tethering with out the $49.99 a month plan. So far Verizon has not complained .

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@AC

>>"Can anyone explain why it's legal for AT&T to differentiate, given net neutrality laws? I get that you sign a contract, but if that contract runs afoul of NN laws.........?"

Since when were there laws saying you could connect whatever device you want to someone else's phone network?

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Silver badge

But you're not.

You're tethering a device through a phone that I presume has been approved for connection to a public telephone network. There's no more a circuit from your laptop to AT&T than there is from me to Vulture Towers right now. Ain't packet switching great?

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Doesn't seem right

Wouldn't it be more appropriate to block/restrict internet access than sign customers up to a service that they haven't agreed to pay for?

I thought I had a rough deal with a 800mb per day limit on my 3g internet here in the Philippines. For 15 quid a month it gives me the equivalent of ~24GB of bandwidth per month. Funny how it's considered 'new technology' here but it's cheaper than the US.

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Anonymous Coward

ToS

They agreed to a plan that said no tethering and they tethered.

They agree to it if they continue their tethering ways. So they have an out.

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Form a class action to burn down the "data plan"

that costs $75 or $65 per month. Demand that the CPUC (if in the USA) forces the phone service/carrier to profide $10/month "emergency use only activation plan", and then buy a 4G/etc hotspot that gets 5 to 10 mbps (1,000 kbps or so).

The excuse for Sprint and others for charging that $10 extra is that they expect we'll use our EVO's and other smart phones to pull down massive data. But, they want to FORCE us to go it via wifi but not grant tethering. Tethering is a capability IN THE PHONE. WiFi tethering can sometimes be non-secure fi the user is clueless or inept. I sometimes woul PREFER USB tethering just to make sure that the ONLY device i tether is the ONLY DEVICE that gets bandwidth. For convenience sake, many users will badly enable the the wifi without encyrption, passwords, or hidden names so the 5, 6, 7 or 8 other devices can easily see and use the modem-phone.

However, one sprint rep told me that the wifi tethering via USB generally is worse in experience for the user than wireless tethering. Can anyone reading weigh in on that?

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Same old scam

The old Unlimited does not mean unlimited scam. Hey didn't a read a story on here recently about how that might be illegal, maybe that was the wrong country though.

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Go

Unlimited is allowed to be limited

According to the Advertising standards agency if a FUP is mentioned and that only a small minority of atypical users exceed the FUP, it is deemed to be "unlimited" for the majority of users and so allowed. If you wanna get this changed, make a complaint on asa.org.uk and also cap.org.org and see if you can get them to use the dictionary version of unlimited as opposed to the marketing definition of unlimited

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Anonymous Coward

@Old Handle

>>"The old Unlimited does not mean unlimited scam."

Except, of course, it's not a 'scam' when it comes to anyone who's seen it before, unless they have some crashing inability to learn from experience.

What's that old saying?

"Fool me once - shame on you. Fool me twice - I'll just go and whine over and over about how unfair it is on the internet"

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The Solution!

For all you wondering how they can tell:

All IP packets have something called a TTL associated with them. It stands for Time To Live. Every "hop" along the network from one router to the next reduces the TTL by one. When it reaches 0, the packet is dropped. This was introduced to keep routing problems from overloading the network. If for example, by some error a packet was going around in a circular path, the TTL would eventually reach 0 and prevent a packet storm.

The thing is, ALL routing devices do this. OSes use standard TTLs. For example, let's say both your iPhone and laptop use 127 for the TTL. AT&T will receive packets from your iPhone with a TTL of 127, but since the packets from your laptop pass through your iPhone first, they arrive at AT&T with a TTL of 126. They can detect a tethered device this way.

Apple uses a TTL of 64 for the iPhone, by the way. So change the TTL on your computer to "65" and there should be no problem. Here's how to do it:

1. Click Start - Search and type “regedit”. This launches the WIndows Registry.

2. In the registry, navigate to the following registry key [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters] HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE

\SYSTEM

\CurrentControlSet

\Services

\Tcpip

\Parameters

3. In the right pane, right-click and select New – DWORD (32-bit value) and set its name as “DefaultTTL” and set its value anything between “0? and “255?. The value sets the number of Hops or links the packet traverses before being discarded.

Kudos to Ryan Laster1. I don't have an iPhone to test this.

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The Solution?

I'm not sure about them detecting based upon TTL values. If the phone is acting as a NAT then this is certainly possible, but it was my understanding that (at least in some setups), the phone acts as a modem, and hence the 'external' IP would get assigned to the tethered device.

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No

The phone acts as either a router or a NATing router between the network data connection (3G, Edge, whatever) and the tethering method (WiFi, Bluetooth, USB), the phone doesn't appear as a modem to the device using it, just a network access point.

Depending on what type of router the phone is acting as may be what is giving the game away. It could be something extremely straightforward like it doesn't do any NAT work and the network is seeing two or more DHCP address requests coming from what should be one device (not likely).

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Run a VPN and tether over that

Of course, you'd have to pay for the VPN portal, mostly.

Here in NZ, we get absurdly low (500M) data caps but no restrictions on tethering.

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Anonymous Coward

And newspaper publishers...

...therefore have a right to impose a surcharge if their product is eventually used as loo paper (exception for the daily mail as that is obviously its primary purpose)

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Extra charge?

In the end, would that... (re)constitute a "raw deal"...

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FAIL

Forget Unlimited - this applies to capped Data plans!

It seems easier for the righteous to start complaining of people taking advantage of unlimited data plans with tethering - very easy to point the finger and say those evil people over there have hacked/jail broken their phones and are 'stealing' bandwidth from us other poor sods etc....

Forget all that

The majority of AT&T users no longer have unlimited plans - they are on 2Gb per month for 25$ or whatever.

Forget the jail breaking of iPhones - lots of people have droids with standard 'wifi hotspot' android feature.

So, you turn it on... you fire up your new shiny iPad.... you're still consuming way less than your 2GB limit [which you have paid for] - but ... oh... no... I'm sorry - you now owe AT&T $20 a month extra if your continue to do this.

That is pure greed.

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@"Forget Unlimited"

Actually, the $20 is for 2GB of tethered data *in addition* to your 2GB of untethered data, which is where the 4GB in the article comes from.

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Weird.

My last two Droids here in the UK have done this out of the box, with no extra fees. Data plan is shit, mind.

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Anonymous Coward

Right and wrong...

Henry is in the wrong in that he is in breach of contract and AT&T is in the wrong in that they are charging the consumer twice for the same service, but they hold the high ground because folks like Henry probably signed a contractual agreement.

Tethering is a feature of the phone, not the provider. A good parallel of this is an old acoustic modem on a bog-standard analog telephone. Is it really any different (aside from the speed) than using your land-line with a modem to access the internet via your PC? The data is already at the smart-phone, it is not like DSL.

Data is data is data, be it delivered to a device that is tethered to the phone or to the phone itself, it is still data, it is still traveling to the phone. The phone is simply rerouting it to an external device, no additional costs incurred by AT&T, but lots and lots of extra money to be made by fleecing the ignorant consumer who simply signs on the dotted line.

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Silver badge

The problem is provisioning.

POTS (Plain-Old Telephone Service) was designed with a high level of provision: that is, it can handle lots of calls at the same time. Smart Dialup ISPs also made sure to get lots of lines for its customers. Due to technical and physical restrictions, wireless internet doesn't have the same level of provision.

Tethering in this case is a bit like a dialup hog who keeps one of the ISP's phone lines tied up 24/7. One of them may not be an issue, but start piling in more people like that and customers will start getting the bane of dialup: the dreaded busy signal. Similarly, wireless phones generally are designed to sip at the available bandwidth--at worst, take the infrequent gulp. Now, tethering may not be the issue so much as HEAVY-DUTY tethering: P2P sharing, video streaming, etc. through the connection. This is the wireless version of the dialup hog. Put enough people on the airwaves like that and what little bandwidth that is available for an area gets used up, and ordinary people just wanting to check their e-mail can't get through.

That's one reason AT&T doesn't advertise unlimited data plans anymore. They don't want to be held liable for false advertising, and they were among the first to feel the weight of wireless hogs.

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Silver badge

"...without paying for that service."

Nice try AT&T, but your customers have already paid for it.

Why not admit that while you were screwing your customers, you found out that not ALL of them were complete morons.

"If we don't hear from you, we'll plan to automatically enroll you into DataPro 4GB after March 27, 2011."

This implies the contract can be changed by the vendor after being signed, without consent of the customer.

Is there such a thing? If there is, what idiot would sign that open cheque?

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Silver badge

But they haven't Paid for it.

They paid specifically for handset data useage with the rules clearly not allowing tethering.

Just because I have a car license doesn't mean I can drive a road train even if it is the same road.

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rav
Grenade

AT&T: THE SERVICE YOU LOVE TO HATE

nuff said

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Anonymous Coward

All you can eat

If I go for 'all you can eat' pizza, that's unlimited - as much pizza as I like. But I'm not allowed to take my family with me, pay for myself and share the pizza with them so that we all get 'all you can eat'. I imagine that's the principle in use here - the data is unlimited, but there's a practical limit imposed by only one person using it.

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Nice try but...

I can eat a shitload of pizza and if you say unlimited it better damn well be unlimited. What the hell does it matter how I consume the data allowance as long as it's only me consuming it?

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Anonymous Coward

Not quite

more like 'You can eat an unlimited amount of pizza, but you can't go to the toilet'

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@Clint Sharp

>>"What the hell does it matter how I consume the data allowance as long as it's only me consuming it?"

It matters because *how* a users consumes it significantly determines *how much* they are likely to consume, which in turn feeds back into the cost of providing the service.

Even if a service is unmetered, that doesn't mean that increased usage by a customer is cost-free to a supplier - if enough people try and milk an unlimited service as far as they can, it ends up putting the price up for everyone.

The price of an unmetered service in the end comes down to how many people try and take the piss, and how the supplier deals with people who take the piss.

Ultimately, while people don't like an 'all-you-can' eat place to be stingy with the food, if they saw some greedy fellow customer complaining about the service (or about being refused entry one day) despite having eaten several times what a normal person eats, many of them would be thinking it was the customer that was in the wrong, not the restaurant, and that's in a situation where the 'average greedy':'average normal' consumption ratio still isn't that large (maybe 2:1 or 3:1)

Sure, it'd be possible to price a phone contract to cover the cost of someone actually using it flat out 24/7, but the price would be eye-watering.

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Packets can be regurgitated INtact...

Pizza on an all-you-can-eat deal, taken home like Mamma Birdie takes worms to the nest, would be packed packet regurgitation ENDtact.

At any rate, i think the real issue the phone carriers have is they claim that tethering a laptop means the consumer consumes MUCH more data over the air than would the phone itself. Still, that is BS. If we buy a modem and tether the laptop to that, how much different is it other than we cannot call or type or text from the modem? Are they worried about the phone burning out? Or that the phone would choke and cause spurious and debilitating diagnostics on the cell net or in the towers?

If they don't WANT tethering to happen, why not allow it but then make the carriers install a tether lojack to detect tethering, then throttle it at the phone, or at the tower. Wai, they would be found out and sued similar to what is happening to Clear. So, if in the end it is denial and phone-cripping foisted upon the customer, why cannot we sue them anyway?

In the end, these horses-harses of carriers that block or charge for tethering are just regurging crap and forcing it down our throats.

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Linux

Android

My Android (HTC Desire) came with a Wifi hotspot application pre-installed. I wonder what my mobile network makes of it....

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That's (Broken) Capitalism

Every time I read about the low behaviour of American telcos I shake my head in disbelief, and decide that maybe ours aren't so bad after all (same with banks actually). At least our telcos are mostly content to eat you one digit at a time instead of tearing you limb from limb! Thank God for GSM and MVNOs.

It really is a case of (deliberately engineered) market failure, thanks to mess of incompatible mobile standards and the almost universal use of obscene lock-in contracts and ridiculous "exclusivity" deals with hardware companies in the Home of Free Enterprise it's difficult for consumers to vote with their feet and go elsewhere. The market is broken, gummed up with sand and monopoly pieces. Time the government stepped in and unleashed the anti-trust dogs, but as the US government is now a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate interests I can't see that happening.

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I don't use tethering...

...instead, I use the WiFi hotspot that comes as standard with my Android handset. Nothing hacked or jailbroken. If Telco think they can charge me again for what I already own, they can go whistle.

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Anonymous Coward

er... that is tethering!

a) this is tethering - so you'd still be in trouble with AT&T

b) people on this thread still don't get it - forget the unlimited data plan case - AT&T are still coming after you if you are on a standard 2GB plan and are using less than that. If they detect packet re-routing/extra-hop or whatever they will get you

So all the arguments about Pizza, water, gasoline etc are beside the point. If you try to consume the exact same amount of data that you would normally on your iPhone or HTC Desire or whatever - on your laptop or wi-fi only IPad you are in breach of the contract and they'll come after you for an extra $20 a month. [though I think you end up on a 4gb plan to go with it....]

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FAIL

What "service"?

Exactly what “service" beyond what I already pay for is AT&T providing when I tether my tablet? None. This is a double dip money grab, plain and simple. The fact that they would call attention to the fact that they are monitoring which apps their subscribers are using and how at the same time they're announcing the T-Mobile offer shows they are either incredibly arrogant or incredibly stupid.

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Flame

Morality vs. Legality

I would assume that AT&T has their legal ass covered on this one due to the contract. So probably from a legal perspective, they are "in the right."

However, in the moral sense they <insert invective and defamatory phrase here>. If you charge x for up to 2GB of data a month, then you should be willing to provide up to 2GB of data a month without trying to recoup through weasel fees.

For the ones arguing that their network can't handle the capacity of providing 2 GB to everyone - that's an invalid argument. They are selling the ability to provide 2GB of service via the contract - if they can't provide it then they are violation of their end of the contract. Basically, they are banking on everyone not using the full amount, but charging everyone for the full amount. If you would like to make the valid argument that they would need to charge everyone more (so they could upgrade their service capabilities) if everyone used 2 GB of service, ok...

I personally think the tethering by fee only clauses are crap - data is data - they should set a reasonable maximum for typical smart phone useage and charge by some logical quanta for use above and beyond the maximum - no special fees, no other crap - or you get to deal with users that would be fine with seeing your company burn down. I think that is a perfectly legitimate senitment - in fact is a sentiment similar to the way I feel about many airlines in the US and for the same reasons - due to their imcompetence they can't figure out how to charge fares and generate a profit so they have shifted to a profit by fees mentaility. (And they wonder why everyone f'ing despises them like the cock roaches they are.)

Of course all of the above is predicated on the ASSUMPTION that AT&T's contractual tethering langauge is legal - wouldn't be the first time that a company included illegal provisions in a contract. I'm just hoping a smart lawyer sees something in said contracts and a little thing called a class action suit comes to play. The roof... the roof... the roof is on fire... we don't need no water... let the.....

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@Battsman

>>"For the ones arguing that their network can't handle the capacity of providing 2 GB to everyone - that's an invalid argument. They are selling the ability to provide 2GB of service via the contract - if they can't provide it then they are violation of their end of the contract. Basically, they are banking on everyone not using the full amount, but charging everyone for the full amount."

No, they're providing a service where they work out the price they charge based at least in part on what they expect the average costs to be.

>>"If you would like to make the valid argument that they would need to charge everyone more (so they could upgrade their service capabilities) if everyone used 2 GB of service, ok..."

That's effectively the *exact same* argument.

If you think it's valid to argue that they would have to charge more if they expected everyone to use the maximum, then it logically must be valid to say that the current price was worked out on the assumption of a less-than-maximum average usage.

That is to say that, effectively, people are *not* being 'charged for the full amount of usage', but charged for an estimated amount which is some fraction of the maximum usage.

It's certainly possible that making a mistake in the estimates could cost the provider money, and that that would be their problem, but if they've based their estimates on a certain kind of permitted usage, I think they're within their rights morally as well as legally to charge extra for other kinds of usage which they'd explicitly disallowed as part of the standard package.

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Oohh, OVi Store's take!

Dear oululife,

We are informing you that we have removed the following comment from your account in Ovi Store:

http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2011/03/18/new_att_tethering_policy, under my 'nick' of Andus McCoatover in the comments...

(re. Tethering)

Does exactly what it says on the tin.

We have removed the comment since it appears to violate the Ovi Store content guidelines.

Nokia is committed to providing a safe and fun service for the consumers. Repeated violations of the content guidelines may lead to termination of the account. Please continue to use Ovi Store but please review the Content Guidelines for what is not allowed on the service.

Thank you,

Ovi Store Moderation Team

If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail moderator@nokia.com <mailto:moderator@nokia.com>

_____________________________

My Response

_____________________________

??

It means, "It does what it (i.e., the description) says it does."

No more, no less. i.e., it works!

I'm suspecting that an English 101 might well be called for.

As to the rest of my comment, if Theregister.co.uk okay's it, then, as Sara Bee (the moderator) is more strict than the mods. at OVI, I suggest you look again.

If You have an issue with this, make it plain.

I await your response.

____________________________

?? If all I said was "it does what it says on the tin" does that make my response Spam??

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