FINAL WARNING: AT&T Police Are Cracking Down On Unauthorized Tethering


Looks like AT&T is keeping a close eye on their customers. If you are currently taking advantage of one of the many wired/wireless tethering options from the Android Market but you’re not paying for AT&T’s tethering option, you might want to check your phone bill next month. AT&T has been sending out a second round of text messages to all those they consider “illegally” tethering without paying for the required plan. They warn:

AT&T Free Msg: We’ve noticed you’re continuing to enjoy the tethering feature with your smartphone service. Remember, you need a tethering plan ($45/mo, incl. 4GB) to use this feature, so we’re planning to update your line with the required plan soon.

Looks like AT&T is done with playing Mr. Nice Guy and apparently, they’ve been doing a good job at targeting violators. Its unclear how they know if you’re tethering or if you’ve just been doing a lot of YouTubing surfing and video streaming but if you have a golden tongue, I’m sure there’s some way you could argue your way out of charges.

I’d have to say, I’ve been tethering and hotspotting since my G1 days and this actually has me a little concerned that maybe one day Sprint could/will catch on and force me to pay up.

I know you guys are going to have some pretty strong opinions about AT&T’s policy and as always, express your thoughts below.

[Via Electronista]

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. This is Stupid. I mean utterly stupid. People are limited already in their plan. How stupid is ATT to launch another, ” we own you” campaign. I mean the user should be able to use their 2gb the way they frickin want without having to listen to ATT sticking their nose in everyone’s business.

    I am glad I am not with them anymore. In the long run ATT will go down the drain and I think this will push more customers towards verizon and most likely sprint as they will not be doing anything like this anytime soon since they need more customers. If verizon was to do this to me I would probably head over to sprint, they have good enough service in my area.

    1. They’re not called the Death Star for nothing.

    2. theyve been in bed with iphone for too long. money Hungry controll freaks

  2. Very strange. I think It’s very weird they know but technology these days I wouldn’t doubt they can pull up a screen that shows what were doing on our phone

    1. Sure.. they spend all day watching people playing Angry Birds.

    2. They can tell you’re tethering by watching the data packets going to and from your phone.

  3. And I have T-mobile :{ Gonna miss my easy life.

    1. Yeah, this is typical of them and one of the many reasons I will not go over to AT&T if the merger goes through. Would rather go without a cellphone than go with the choices that are left in my area.

      1. I’m an AT&T employee… and yeah… there are some serious issues from the board room to the mail room and everywhere in between…

      2. You will get to keep your T-Mobile plan(s), per At&t and a article on PCmag.com dated 04/21/11. Just make sure to be on any plan you want, to “lock” yourself into it BEFORE the merger completes. But after that, anything goes. I just added unlimted internationl texting for $5.00 and I will add the thethering plan for $14.99.

    2. I had been thinking of dumping VZW for T mobile as there coverage is greatly improving in my area, but, AT&T will ruin a good company.

  4. I’d be willing to bet a lawsuit will be spawned from this.

    Perhaps it could center around the usage of the word unlimited as AT&T seems to believe it means something other than its definition.

    1. Im hoping for it. i hoping ppl continue to tether the hell out of it. Then have at&t do some massive discretional “unauthorized” Data Charges, and then have massive amts of BBB, FCC, and Attorney general complaints, and even a class action against them. I want this to blow up as much as possible as quick as possible so it can finally be settled.

      it’s pure bull.

      tho the situation may be a slightly different, the principle is largely the same.
      For those of us that remember when Broadband first started becoming standard in Residential Homes, every broadband company wanted you to pay an xtr 15$ for each additional computer you were using to access internet service. Using an unauthorized Router on your Broadband Line for multiple PC access was against ToS. Obviously that didnt work out for them.

      Please keep using ur tethering. please raise bloody hell when they charge you for it. and please demand documented proof of tethering when they accuse you of it. This could possibly even be a case bluffing the way the RIAA and MPAA randomly subpeona ppl w flaky evidence to back their claims.

      Then PLEASE make sure you report to every agency and encourage every one of ur friends to do the same.
      Better Business Bureau
      Local Attorney General
      AT&T’s Headquarters Attorney General.

      and w the power of Social networks these days, blast their walls and twitters and forums abt it to demonize them for their actions.

      If they’re going to ultimately squeeze you out of your money, dont make it easy for them.. and make sure they spend as much as theyre attempting to profit from these unreasonable charges.

      1. I like this guy ^^

      2. you sir need to run for president lol

      3. Yeah, but how many people will actually do this? Not that many I’m willing to bet. More people DON’T tether illegally than DO, so it’s pointless. Besides, people are too lazy to spend that much time writing that many people to complain about this issue. This is America remember? Land of the lazy…

    2. Unfortunately, The Supreme Court just decided that, from what I can tell (non-lawyer, regular dude), we cannot bring a class-action suit against At&t. They are allowed to just choose not to accept it or something like that. I’m sure its more complicated than that but I’m also pretty sure that its not good for consumers.

    3. A lawsuit would be dismissed. YOU signed the contract, and YOU should have read it. It clearly defines what the mobile data can be used for and specifically states that tethering is not allowed without a tethering plan.

      Whether or not you think it’s right, YOU did agree to it.

      Nice Try….

  5. I don’t see why its such a big deal since its only 2GB of data anyways. It 2GB whether its on the phone or the device tethered to it. Now I can see the issue in an unlimited plan because you can suck up as much data as you want, but when you’re capped at 2GB does it really matter? Of course here I am asking AT&T to think logically. Silly me.

    1. Because they’re losing out from “profit” by making pay $45 a mo extra just to tether.

      1. damn, they charge 45? I thought the 30 bucks every other carrier charges was on the borderline of too steep. Not to mention, there are truly unlimited plans available for 15 bucks less (Sprint).

        1. It’s $45 a month for 4 GB versus $25 a month for 2 GB. It’s silly because if you’re on the 2 GB plan and use 4 GB you pay $45. So basically you have to pay for 4 GB regardless of whether you use that much or not even including your tethering usage. I do agree that they have every right to enforce this for users on unlimited plans, however.

    2. This is exactly the problem with the whole idea of tethering. I understand it’s somewhat of a gray area with unlimited data, but with a 2GB cap, they can’t use excuse. So, it has now come down to a point where they are charging you for using a feature of your phone as if it were a service they provide, which they don’t. The only service they provide is data to your phone. What happens to the data from there (stays on your phone or goes across a tether link to another device) should not matter. If fact, they should happily give it to you for free in the hopes of you exceeding your data cap, in which case they can charge you big in overage fees. I rarely use tethering, but I refuse to pay for it. Paying for tethering as if it were a service would be like paying a car manufacturer a monthly fee to use your car stereo (and I’m talking AM/FM/CD, not satellite radio, which actually is another service).

      1. Has this ever gone to court? I’d love to see AT&T try to justify the tethering charge.

      2. Did you ever think that the carriers want their phones to have the ability to tether so you have the option to use that service? The fact remains that the tethering feature can only be unlocked by the carrier; Downloading an app to take advantage of this feature is akin to stealing a key for a door that you know is locked by the owner. Since it looks like you like cars, it would be that same as installing some sort of device to unlock the on-star feature in your car; Just because your car has the button doesn’t mean that you are entitled to use it for free. Oh, and my car has satellite radio, it was included with the car…but I still have to initiate service and pay for it (hmmm…just because you mention a very good rebuttal to your point in your own argument doesn’t make that point invalid; ex: I don’t want to sound like a jerk but…)

        1. All of your lame examples are of “added services” On star is an added service not a feature of the car!

  6. I wonder how they’re catching on to the people tethering.

    1. Um it’s pretty easy to differentiate between the amount of data a mobile device and a pc use.

      1. There are a lot of other ways. For example, they can do OS fingerprinting of TCP packets, they can look for packet types that the phone can’t send, etc..

        1. so we need to make and idiotproof packet spoofer?

  7. Nice iphone article. So far, it is only iPhone MyWi users who have been tagged, because the iPhone forces a different APN. I have yet to see Android users get flagged. Android uses the same APN, making it much more difficult to track down. Basically unless you’re abusing your line, you have nothing to worry about.

  8. You guys have to pay for tethering? Wow that sucks. In Australia we get a certain amount of mobile data (if the plan has it) and then we can use it however we want.

    If they are going to provide you with internet data to use through the phone who the hell cares if it’s tethered or not.

    1. I agree, if you’re alloted a certain amount of data per billing cycle. but what if you’re on an unlimited plan? Should you be able to constantly stream data to a virtually unlimited number of users/devices?

      1. Actually, it depends on definition of unlimited.

        For example T-Mobile Slovakia charges you 16.13€ for 2GB data package. You get 2/0.5Mbps speed for that 2GB, then the speed drops down to 64kbps. If you need high speed, you either pay extra for another 1/3GB, or wait till next billing cycle starts. Of course you have bigger packages, up to 10GB for 31.25€ with 5.3/1.8MBps through OFDM or 21/1.46MBps through HSDPA.

        1. well, that sure doesn’t sound like the unlimited data I am used to with Sprint. Never have to worry about data.

    2. ToS

  9. someone get anonymous so they can take down at&t like they did to the psn.

    1. I second that.

  10. What if you have a nexus one on att tethering is built in to the software of the phone?

    1. shut up they dont know about us relax keep it a secret shhhhhhhhhh dont blow the cover. dam

    2. I was going to get the Nexus One so I called AT&T and asked them specifically about tethering. Their response was that If I used bluetooth or USB tethering, then I was required to get a tethering plan, but not if I used the WiFi hotspot.

      I ended up going with the HTC Aria, but I’m running CyanogenMod on it so I’m hoping the same rules apply.

      I agree that if you are capped, they should have ZERO say on how you use it.

      While we’re at it, where the hell is my roll-over data and shared data for family plans?

  11. Money money moneymoney……MONEY!!!

  12. Lol Kumar …good enough service …alol

  13. I have no data on my phone but carry a mifi. Then I use whatever device I want. Problem solved.

  14. Why are people still bending over and signing up for contracts with att?

    1. exactly my question? maybe we shouldn’t underestimate the power of stupidity.

    2. Because their mom bought an Iphone last year in their family plan and they’re stuck for another year or so…

    3. Because they like getting pounded from behind by ATT?

  15. Freaking att I bet that miwi just changes the way it connects. So they can’t track it like they are now…

  16. I don’t put anything past AT&T. the require a tehtering plan to use the Atrix’s laptop dock. Now that is absolutely ridiculous.

  17. i use verizon and i hardly get pass 1gb per month…..

    1. i pulled in about 3 gb last month… with a bit of change, i could handle 2gb. But thats WITHOUT tethering.

    2. I watch TV all the time in my verizon Droid X while I’m at the office (Not Wifi), I hardly go below 10GB per month, this is an nunlimmited plan $29.99

  18. If you’re stealing it.. they have the right to take it away. If you want/need it, pay for it like an honest, mature, civilized person.

    1. If you have a data plan you are already paying for the data.

    2. You are probably the only dumb as civilized immature paying for it twice.

      1. TOOL!!!

    3. fag

      1. joe your being honest by getting chickie by att in your hairy butthole haha enjoy it your gonna get aids lol

    4. Nexus One & Nexus S come with free tethering, now what.

      Google, Android, Nexus FTW.

    5. If you pay for bandwidth, it’s your right to use that bandwidth as you see fit. Data is data.

  19. Wouldn’t this constitute a termination of the contract? They should have to pay early termination fees to the customers.

    1. and check your bill on your ETF fee too. They charge the usual 20% Tax fee on the ETF.

      Its funny how you get charged “Service” Charge for your termination fee. what, exactly, type of service did you receive for CANCELING your line?

      1. is ATT still charging something ridiculous for ETF, too? Like $350 or something crazy?

        1. I guess you don’t know what *subsidized* means. They sell you a $500 phone, for 200 assuming that they’ll make back the difference during the term of your contract.

          Therefore, if you leave before your contract is up they need to make the money back somehow.

          1. I know exactly what subsidation means. I was just getting at, not only does ATT have some of the most expensive plans with the least amount of data, they have some of the highest ETF fees. Kinda crappy if youre one of their customers. All this, and multiple studies show thy have more droped calls then other provider. Just seems stupid IMO.

      2. Well, technically disconnecting your line for you is a service. You have to talk to someone to disconnect or if you port your number out, your service was the company porting out for you. Regardless, if you have your ETF waived the taxes you’re charged for it should adjust on the next bill.

  20. If you pay for data it is not stealing. You shouldn’t have to pay for something twice. Before they had tethering plans people did it with old phones with usb and even early abdroids.

    1. you should tell joe that! rich mother f guy…

    2. They’re getting their business plan from the RIA…

  21. I would go to boost mobile with their garry the snail ass data speeds before I EVER go to att.

  22. Why is phandroid reporting on this. Has anyone with an android even been contacted over this. I thought it only affected iphone users for now.

  23. Blow me AT&T. I’ll continue to enjoy my $15/month Medianet unlimited on my UNLOCKED Android smartphone because I’m smart enough to bring an unlocked phone. Suck it.

  24. grandfathered unlimited plan
    I am not tethering but I still have used 6Gb so far this month. Used 9 Gb last month. inspire 4g.

  25. The android police article said its the iphone users especially the jaillbroken devices that att going after , not so much the android ….yet

  26. In the case of jailbrokeeln fruit phones, most of their tether options simply activate carrier tethering. Pretty dumb solution when discretion is required. Wifi tether (root) sends packets directly from your pc to the phone sans any sort of pc side data translation. The net result is data sent from a phone with desktop fingerprints. Not overtly detectable, but would look strange upon detailed inspection. The wired tethering market options have pc side clients that map pc data to the phone so telling where the data came from is almost impossible (assuming you modify the desktop user agent).

  27. At&t blows. They can kish my asshh.

  28. I can understand how AT&T, Verizon, etc. can force you to pay the monthly charge to use THEIR tethering plan (“3G Mobile Hotspot” on VZW)…. but how can they enforce rules against third party apps?

    So, yeah, I’m all for the phone companies cracking down on people that are hacking/’patching’ the carrier’s own tethering apps (that, I’ll acknowledge as ‘stealing’ for sure), but when they start going after the users for using their phones as they were designed to be used, they lose me. If they don’t want me to use Barnacle Wifi Tether, then they should pressure Google to remove it from their official marketplace. I think I have a reasonable expectation as a consumer to assume that anything I download from the official Android Market should be clear in the legal department.

  29. *hugs his Magenta T*

  30. When you are not unlimited and you are paying for 2Gb you should NOT have to pay for tethering because if you hit you data limit you have to pay extra, I think the only reasion this hasn’t gotten really ugly is because when you pay for tethering you do actually get another 2Gb of data. Now on unlimited I could see them saying that you need to pay an extra fee for tethering with the idea being that you would use more data than normal but that is not always the case.

  31. II feel like at&t should spend more time fixing the choke hold on the 4G speeds first.

  32. Christ, $45/month

  33. “little concerned that maybe one day Sprint could/will catch on and force me to pay up.”

    SHHHHHHHh – Sprint’s a bit down on profits man – and will surely take heed

  34. What ever happened to the concept of being nice to your customers? AT&T must want to go out of business.

  35. I don’t tether but I do think its complete bull shit that we have to pay extra for tethering. I have “unlimited” data that I should be able to use however I want…I’m already paying for data. Same goes as paying for text messaging as well, its all a bunch of crap.

  36. The apps are in cahoots with AT&T. Maybe AT&T are making tethering apps, and then when people go to download them, AT&T can say, “Hey, this person downloaded a tethering app with no tethering plan” and that’s how they find you.

    Unless you Root of course, then you can use the tethering feature. LoL!! But at 2GB a month!? I use that on my phone alone. o.O

    I mean, what if you had a mobile TV app. Would you get more data? The mobile TV app tells you it uses a lot of data, and no one would pay an extra $10 a month for watching 1 hour of TV a month. -_-

    Data kapping is so stupid. That’s why I’m hoping Sprint buys Tmo, because Sprint doesn’t Data Kap, and with the extra network, they wouldn’t need the extra money for tethering plans making tethering free. LoL!!

  37. as NukkaYarrell would say.. wutchu talkin bout ATT?!?!?

  38. Everyone should just jump to T-MO and leave AT&T in the crapper with their merger. $20 unlimited Android Data plan for loyal customers- overall, cheaper plans and hackable $10 unlimited data plans for Nokia phones

  39. I do not tether but do use on average 6 gig a month truly on the phone with Pandora and other music sites plus updating apps backup to dropbox and others they better not charge Me extra have unlimited plan on 4 phones will definitely cancel my accounts with them they can lose my 120.00 a month just in data

  40. I would bet that if you stay under your 5GB a month you are most likely safe. I doubt anybody that uses under 5GB a month are getting those warnings.

    My guess is it’s the assholes that use 10-30GB+ (by tethering, not using the actual network) every month that are the ones getting the warnings. “THEY” are the ones that ruin it for everybody else that just use it occasionally….

    My webhost gives me “unlimited” bandwidth a month but I bet you if I sucked up 100,000GB a month they would ask me to upgrade my plan.

  41. I’m unlimited and I tether but I don’t use the stock HTC tethering app so there’s no way for AT&T to know.

    Fuck you beeyotches … I’m stilll going to tether and suck up as much data as I can.

  42. Really wish an AT&T customer would sack up and sue AT&T for this. If you pay for 5GB of data, they have no legal right to tell you how you use that data as long as you are not driving traffic across their network that would be considered illegal. FU AT&T. FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!

  43. If they limit the amount of downloads that you can do, it should not be any of their business how I use it.


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