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AT&T Playing Hardball with Unauthorized Tetherers

Jailbreaking your smartphone is legal, so what’s wrong with jailbreaking your iPhone and installing a program like MyWi that allows you to leverage your 3G wireless connection into a Wi-Fi hotspot, thus bypassing carriers’ usurious tethering fees? As long as you don’t go over your plan, data is data, right?

Well, AT&T doesn’t see it that way, and they’re increasingly playing hardball with customers who want to tether without paying up extra. According to OSXDaily and other outlets, AT&T has been blanketing some tetherers with form letters warning them that if they keep their tethering up, then after March 27, they will be automatically subscribed to the DataPro plan, which charges an additional $20 per month for a base rate of $45 per month. The plan is also capped at 4GB of data usage, presumably causing iPhone users with grandfathered-in unlimited data plans to lose that privilege.

From the rather passive-aggressive letter:

Dear [Name of Account Holder],

We’ve noticed your service plan may need updating.

Many AT&T customers use their smartphones as a broadband connection for other devices, like laptops, netbooks or other smartphones– a practice commonly known as tethering. Tethering can be an efficient way for our customers to enjoy the benefits of AT&T’s mobile broadband network and use more than one device to stay in touch with important people and information. To take advantage of this feature, we require that in addition to a data plan, you also have a tethering plan.

Our records show that you use this capability, but are not subscribed to our tethering plan.

If we don’t hear from you, we’ll plan to automatically enroll you into DataPro 4GB after March 27, 2011. The new plan – whether you sign up on your own or we automatically enroll you – will replace your current smartphone data plan, including if you are on an unlimited data plan. If you discontinue tethering, no changes to your current plan will be required.

How is AT&T sniffing out tetherers? TUAW makes a smart guess: AT&T is probably doing “something quite simple, such as checking the ID string that all web browsers send as part of a request. If a given account doesn’t have tethering, but it has lots of browsing activity from, say, Firefox or the OS X version of Safari, it’s pretty much guaranteed they are using something like MyWi.”

(OSXDaily via TUAW)

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