Sure, carriers will pound the table that it’s a terms-of-service violation, but the new path (previously detailed) for Tether.com is something the carriers appear well-prepared to handle from a customer standpoint.
Each carrier has clear strategies to handle customers that use too much data. AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile all throttle customers on unlimited data plans. The only loophole open there is for Verizon 4G LTE customers, a loophole the carrier will likely close eventually.
Verizon of course will respond to this article that they only throttle 3G customers in areas that are impacted, and a user will not be throttled if they travel outside an impacted area. We know they’ll respond, because we get an earful each time we don’t add this very long, very drawn out statement that gives us carpal-tunnel each time we have to manually type it. That’s why we’re permanently copying-and-pasting this each time from now on.
Sprint doesn’t throttle, but has gone on-record finally that they are indeed kicking data users off their network, when they use too much data. Sprint won’t say how much, but reports all indicate it is in the hundreds of gigabytes per month.
What this means, is that there’s not a lot a user can do with Tether.com that wouldn’t already get them throttled… or remain profitable otherwise. An AT&T customer that exceeds 3GB is either going to get throttled on their iPhone, or if they’re on a metered data plan, is going to become a cash cow for AT&T when that plan auto-renews mid-month.
On Verizon, the moment a Tether.com user hits 2GB on their iPhone 4(S), they’re going to get throttled if the network is impacted. If the network is not impacted, Verizon knows they’re charging higher ARPU than any other provider, so they would rather keep the grandfathered customer. If they customer is on a metered data plan, it’s the same story as AT&T… Verizon is making tons of money from metered data plans, when customers go over.
T-Mobile is in a state of general disarray. How it has handled data plans and throttling has been a dismal failure. And they don’t have an iPhone. Moving on…
Sprint is in a fight for the tech-centric user. They’ve paid more than any other carrier, arguably, to have an iPhone on their network. The only thing holding Sprint back from offering free tethering, is the concern of network overload. Network Vision is not in place, and Sprint wants to make money from IT departments and corporate customers who are willing to pay $29.99/month for the right to tether a lousy 5 GB.
So Sprint really isn’t too concerned about Tether.com, either. If someone does decide to watch every episode on Hulu with it, they will be kicked off for raw data usage levels that the network simply cannot sustain.
Wrapping this up, if you’re on AT&T or Verizon, this isn’t going to be the holy grail it may have been a few years ago. You may enjoy pulling up a quick session of that all that just will not run on a mobile device, but relying on the tool will likely leave you throttled at 50 to 250 kbps for the rest of your bill cycle.
Really, the best feature use case here, is on Sprint, which offers unlimited data.
In our opinion, Tehter.com is not a violation of your Terms of Service, but our opinion matters little in a world of lawfare. All the carriers will consider this to be a TOS violation. The bad news for them is, there will be little way to stop it. And don’t ask Apple, if Apple were to block this, it would cause their browser to fall out of HTML5 spec.
The good that comes out of Tehter.com is that maybe, just maybe, the carriers will realize that tethering is not the evil that they thought it was. We’ve been trying to convince them it isn’t, since 2003. Ideally what this will do is continue to drive consumer awareness to what you can do with your Internet connection, wired or wireless, and that will fuel competition, to create sustainable data plans that don’t draw ire from consumers.