Verizon spanked by FCC for charging extra for tethering/apps, should drop extra fee in short order

Verizon iPhone Personal Hotspot settings (Image: TechCrunch)

Verizon was fined a measly $1.25 million today for blocking access to tethering apps mostly on the Android platform. That does not apply to most iOS users (currently), however. That is because this ruling —for now— only affects LTE 4G devices. With the next-generation iPhone, which will launch in mid-September, heavily rumored to be the first iPhone to include LTE access, this will affect those choosing to go with Verizon Wireless for their fancy new iPhone.

The ruling asserts that Verizon must not charge an additional fee for tethering on its devices—so long as they are not on the grandfathered unlimited data plans. The iPhone has included tethering support since iOS 3.0, and the feature was taken to the next level by Apple and Verizon Wireless with the launch of the Verizon iPhone 4 and the wireless Personal Hotspot feature in early 2011. The feature was soon spread to iPhone carriers globally with iOS 4.3.

Earlier this year, Apple brought the Personal Hotspot feature to its tablet with the LTE iPad. Something notable with Apple and Verizon’s agreement for the iPad is that the wireless tethering feature is included in the pre-paid data plans. If a user pays a certain amount for data, they will not have to pay anything extra to access the wireless tethering system. With the LTE iPhone, according to today’s FCC ruling, users will have the same, great experience.

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$1.99 app sneaks into the App Store, allows tethering via Proxy

Update: Like others before it, Apple is now pulling QuasiDisk from its global iTunes stores. But we’ve added another below the fold

It appears another tethering app snuck into the App Store.  QuasiDisk ($1.99) purports to be a file manager for the iPhone, but it appears that in the most recent update over the weekend, it stealthily got the ability to tether via proxy.  Apple is usually pretty quick to pull these, so you might want to jump on this app if you want some tethering without a carrier plan.

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AT&T introducing new data plans for phones and tablets Jan. 22

AT&T announced it would introduce new data plans for phones and tablets on Sunday, Jan. 22.  There will be three phone plans: $20 for 300MB, $30 for 3GB, and $50 for 5GB with tethering. While the two tablet plans will be: $30 for 3GB and $50 for 5GB.

In the past, AT&T made available $15 for 200MB, $25 for 2GB, or $45 for 4GB with tethering. Each plan earned more data and a $5 price hike. AT&T will charge $10 for each 1GB roll over. AT&T explained the sudden change:

“Customers are using more data than ever before,” said David Christopher, chief marketing officer, AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. “Our new plans are driven by this increasing demand in a highly competitive environment, and continue to deliver a great value to customers, especially as we continue our 4G LTE deployment.”

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Jailbreak hotspot-ers: AT&T is moving you to a tiered data plan involuntarily

We’ve gotten word from some readers that AT&T is moving forward and removing unlimited plans for users who jailbreak iPhones to tether or hotspot off of AT&T’s unlimited data plans (for those grandfathered):

I was just informed that as of Thursday August 11th 2011, if you use MyWi or any tethering on the phone or using the phone as a modem, AT&T will automatically change ur unlimited plan to a 2Gb tethering plan for 45 dollars without the customers consent. This is for those who received emails or texts about the use of tethering without an AT&T tethering plan.

An AT&T spokesperson has confirmed this, but not August 11th as a hard cutoff date, saying:

Earlier this year, we began sending letters, emails, and text messages to a small number of smartphone customers who use their devices for tethering but aren’t on our required tethering plan.  Our goal here is fairness for all of our customers.  (This impacts a only small percentage of our smartphone customer base.)

The letters outline three choices:

1) Stop tethering and keep their current plan (including grandfathered unlimited plan)

2) Proactively call AT&T or visit our stores and move to the required tethering plan

3) Do nothing and we’ll go ahead and add the tethering plan on their behalf — after the dated noted in their customer notification

Is this fair of AT&T?  Well, it is certainly fair that people pay for the data that they are using and unlimited tethering turns your iPhone into a data sucking monster.  AT&T’s service to others is obviously affected, so they have to do something about it and this seems like a reasonable solution.  The obvious retort is that some may have purchased their unlimited plans back when unlimited really meant unlimited, jailbroken or not.

The matter doesn’t appear up for debate however. MiWi users: get your free data this week and hope AT&T doesn’t decide to move you over early. Read more