AT&T begins cracking down on unauthorized tethering use

Alex Wagner
Editorial Director of News and Content from  Omaha, NE
| March 18, 2011

AT&T logo

One of the things that folks who jailbreak or root their smartphones enjoy is the ability to tether their handsets for mobile broadband without having to pay extra fees that the carriers usually charge for the feature, but now AT&T is cracking down on the practice. AT&T spokesperson Seth Bloom has confirmed that the carrier is alerting users that are tethering without paying for it that they have three options going forward: stop tethering and keep their current data plan, call AT&T and move to an official tethering plan, or, if the customer takes no action by March 27th, ATT will add the tethering plan for them. Bloom explains that the company has decided to stop unauthorized tethering in an attempt to create "fairness for all of [their] customers." You can find an example of one of the letters that AT&T is sending these users below.

This move may have caught some users off-guard, but I'm kind of surprised that they didn't do it sooner. The tethering option is an extra $20 per month, and I'm sure AT&T doesn't really appreciate that some of its subscribers are getting the feature for free because they've hacked their smartphones while others are paying for it. What do you all think of ATT's actions?

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, 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 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.


Via BGR, PhoneScoop