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AT&T ends illicit freetard handset tethering

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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 by OS X Daily, Cult of Mac, and others.

"Our records show that you use this capability, but are not subscribed to our tethering plan," the email explains – ending any speculation as to whether AT&T can distinguish between tethered and on-device data usage.

Tethering owners of jailbroken iPhones have taken advantage of apps such as MyWi or the iPhone-to-iPad MyWi OnDemand to get a free ride on AT&T's service, while owners of a variety of Android devices have been able to root their handsets and install tools such as those supplied by the android-wifi-tether project. The Android tools support tethering over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; MyWi adds USB to the mix.

AT&T's missive informs tethering freetards that to continue using such apps they'll need to sign up for their DataPro 4GB for Smartphone Tethering plan – and if they don't sign up but continue their unauthorized tethering ways, AT&T will sign them up anyway: "If we don't hear from you, we'll plan to automatically enroll you into DataPro 4GB after March 27, 2011."

As AT&T explains, that plan's tariffs are as follows:

  • $45 per month (this gives you 4GB in total, combining both your smartphone data plan for $25 and the tethering feature, $20)
  • $10 per each additional GB thereafter, added automatically as needed
  • Mobile Hotspot capabilities are included for compatible Smartphones

There is another alternative, according to AT&T's email: "If you discontinue tethering, no changes to your current plan will be required."

As might be expected, some tethering scofflaws are less than totally pleased by this development – such as Henry, who complained to The Houston Chronicle's TechBlog: "[My iPhone and Android handset] are rooted and I have unlimited data on each. I PAY for that. How I use it is my business."

To which we reply: well, not really, Henry. It's AT&T's service you're using, and how they choose to parse it out and charge for it is their business, not yours. You pays your money and you makes your choice.

Another TechBlog commenter who reluctantly agrees that AT&T is within its rights to charge for services as it sees fit – "that's capitalism," he says – nevertheless expressed his feelings about Big Phone's new policy concisely: "Very few things in life would make me happier than seeing AT&T burn to the ground." ®

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