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 AT&T Data Plans and Tethering - Rant
Posted by John on June 8, 2010 11:06 AM PST

Some thoughts:

Previously AT&T charged 30.00 a month for an 'unlimited' data plan. In reality all of these plans have/had 'soft' limits of around 5g if you read the fine print, but I'm not sure it was widely enforced.

AT&T offered tethering plans for most of it's smart phones, excluding iPhone for some reason, for around another 30.00 a month. People complained that it wasn't fair to charge you more money just to access the data you already purchased from another device. The example of your home internet was used. You pay for the pipe to your house, and you can hang as many devices on it as you want. AT&T's response was that tethering to a computer would actually increase the amount of average data you consumed on your plan and they needed to cover those costs.

AT&T promised that tethering was coming to the iPhone almost exactly 1 year ago. It still has not.

This week AT&T has changed their data plans for iPhones and iPads. They will no longer offer an unlimited plan. Instead you can have 200Mb for 15.00 (dataplus) or 2G for 25.00 (datapro). They claim that 98% of their customers use less than 2G and so they would actually SAVE 5.00 a month. (For the record I used 2.1G last month).

If you are a datapro customer and you go over your 2G you get charged 10.00 for each additional 1G.

Now if you are a light, dataplus, user a word of warning, if you use 201Mb, you get charged another 15.00 for only another 200Mb. So you are immediately paying more than if you had the 2G plan. So lets say you are watching a lot of youtube videos one day and you wifi goes down without you noticing and thus you are now pulling from 3G. Do you think ATT will send you a warning text message before you hit 200Mb? Lets hope, but who knows. What if you keep this up all month? Well I guess you'd end up paying 150.00 for 2G.

Let's pause for a moment here. AT&T is voluntarily giving up 5.00 per month revenue from their moderate data users, what a great company. And people say corporations are only motivated by greed. If they were an evil company we might think that this change might in some way benefit them, but clearly not.

This week AT&T announced that hurray, we can finally have tethering on the iPhone. Oh and great news it is only 20.00 per month, not 30.00! But wait, to use it you have to give up your unlimited plan. AND you don't get any more data. So you are paying 20.00 more to use the same 2G of capped data that you already bought, but this time AT&T can't use the argument that you are putting more load on the network. This time it truly is that you are paying 20.00 for the privilege of using same amount of data, but on your laptop. Or to be more specific you are paying 20.00 a month to flip a bit in the iPhone OS to enable tethering with no impact to AT&T's network what-so-ever.

Maybe this wouldn't be so bad, as long as I had the flexibility to tether my phone to either my laptop or my iPad. But nope. AT&T and Apple both say that is not allowed. If you want roaming data on an iPad you need to buy the 3G model. Ok, but maybe AT&T would give you a way to share a data plan and limits between those two devices since the cap would protect them? Nope, have to pay up for two plans.

Ok, in case you can't tell I have a real problem with this move to capped data. I can understand that business models based on 'unlimited' plans are risky because they are based on average usage etc. But as soon as you put a cap on the data I think all those arguments are invalid. If I buy a 2G block of data, then that data is mine. I should be able to use it where, when and how I choose.

 Comments (1)
John, June 19, 2010 02:52 AM:

AT&T's micro cell pricing / billing is so absurd it is laughable. I guess it makes sense to count data used over your own broadband against your 3G usage cap??!!

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