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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

AT&T begins crackdown on iPhone jailbreak tetherers



at-t-logo.jpgIn another move to manage the use of data flowing through their mobile pipeline, AT&T has begun involuntarily switching iPhone users with unlimited data plans to tiered plans, if they are using data tethering through a jailbreak and without a tethering plan. If you don't use tethering and/or you didn't do a jailbreak on your iPhone, this doesn't apply to you. But I'll explain it just the same.

When a user does a jailbreak on an iPhone or iPad, it allows the use of third-party apps that are not approved by Apple and are not sold through the app store. One very popular jailbreak app is MyWi from intelliborn. The MyWi app lets you use your iPhone as a WiFi hotspot or as a USB-tethered Internet device without paying the $20 fee AT&T requires for that feature.


People with AT&T unlimited data accounts recently found out they will be able to keep their accounts but the speed of their service will decrease once they reach a certain point of data use. For those who have been tethering without paying for a tethering plan, AT&T is switching their account to a tiered data plan. That doesn't mean they can't continue to tether with the MyWi app but it does mean that it will cost them a lot more for heavy data use.

Cry foul if you want, but AT&T has the right to do this in my opinion. Using tethering in this way feels kind of the same as switching the wires in your cable box to get HBO without paying for it. I used MyWi for a short while to see how it worked and ultimately decided it was too much of a hassle to have a jailbroken phone and it also felt a little dishonest to me. There is bound to be a lot of outcry from the heavy data users though.

Apparently AT&T had been sending notices to heavy users for awhile with warnings saying they were going to do this. Here is the official word, from AT&T:

There is no change in our policies. Earlier this year, we began sending letters, emails, and text messages to a small number of smartphone customers who use their devices for tethering but aren't on our required tethering plan.  Our goal here is fairness for all of our customers.  (This impacts only a small percentage of our smartphone customer base.)

The letters outline three choices:
1) Stop tethering and keep their current plan (including grandfathered unlimited plan)
2) Proactively call AT&T or visit our stores and move to the required tethering plan
3) Do nothing and we'll go ahead and add the tethering plan on their behalf -- after the date noted in their customer notification

So those who still have an unlimited plan have to give it up to get tethering even if they haven't been using tethering with a jailbroken phone. At least those people have a choice. Users who have been on unlimited plans and have been tethering through a jailbreak will be switched automatically if they don't stop tethering and declare their preference to stay with an unlimited data account. In some cases that decision may have already been made for you, especially if you ignored the warnings. For those who find tethering to be the most important feature of the two, you have to sign up for a qualifying tethering plan. The DataPro 4GB Smartphone data plan is one option, with 4GB of monthly data usage and tethering included for $45 a month.

[Last modified: Friday, August 5, 2011 5:19pm]


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