AT&T is beginning to crack down on unofficial iPhone tethering methods, including users of MyWi, the unofficial iPhone WiFi hotspot app that is popular among jailbreakers.
Customers are being notified that their service plans need updating to subscribe to a tethering plan, and that they will be automatically subscribed to a DataPro 4GB package that costs an additional $45 per month if they continue to tether. In the email, AT&T also notes that if customers discontinue the use of tethering, no changes will be made to their plan.
Here is the full letter that AT&T is sending to select iPhone customers who are suspected of using unofficial tethering methods:
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 you would like to continue tethering, please log into your account online at www.wireless.att.com, or call us at 1-888-860-6789 Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. CST or Saturday, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. CST, by March 27, 2011 to sign up for DataPro 4GB for Smartphone Tethering. Here are details on the plan:
DataPro 4GB for Smartphone Tethering
• $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
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.
It’s easy to track your usage throughout the month so there are no bill surprises. For example, we send you free text messages when you reach 65, 90, and 100 percent of your plan’s threshold. If you would like to monitor your account more closely, go to www.att.com/dataplans to learn about other ways to track your data usage.
As a reminder, our smartphone data plans also include unlimited usage of Wi-Fi at no additional charge. AT&T smartphone customers can use Wi-Fi at home or on-the-go at any one of our more than 23,000 U.S. hotspots already included in your data plan.
Thank you for bringing your account up to date. We appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve your mobile broadband needs.
Please update your data plan by March 27, 2011 if you intend to continue tethering
To learn more and update your plan, visit att.com/dataplans
Reach us for assistance during business hours: Monday – Friday 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. CST Saturday 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. CST at 1-888-860-6789
MyWi isn’t specifically mentioned, but we can confirm that several MyWi users have been contacted by AT&T. MyWi is very popular with those who jailbreak their iPhone because it allows them to create a wireless hotspot, a feature that was previously unavailable on the iPhone prior to the release of iOS 4.3. If you have chosen to jailbreak and use MyWi rather than pay the tethering fee, it’s possible that you will receive this email from AT&T.
If you get one of these letters, we advise you to contact AT&T directly. It doesn’t sound like they have any intention on penalizing anyone, they just want to start collecting a service fee for your data use, so you’ll want to clarify with them whether or not you plan on using tethering.
I find these letters unfortunate because I believe that you should be able to use your data plan the way you want, you paid for it so why shouldn’t you? AT&T disagrees with this, and thinks that if you are tethering at all, you should pay them for the service. Perhaps Verizon will have a different policy on the matter?
On a positive note, you could also look at this like AT&T might be allowing MyWi usage as long as you pay for the data tethering privilege. This would be good news for iPhone 3G users who are unable to access the official Wi-Fi tethering hotspot feature of iOS.
Update: We corrected the wording around the usage fee, the total AT&T tethering & data 4GB package costs $45 per month in addition to your voice plan, not in addition to your existing data plan. Sorry for the confusion.