Verizon, AT&T Putting Foot Down on Illegal Tethering

Verizon and AT&T have had enough of your illegal tethering and they’re not going to sit back any longer.  The two carriers have recently started taking preventative measures to ensure you ultimately pay for those tiered/usage-based data plans and the accompanying tethering options.

Starting this week, Verizon will be blocking customers from tethering data through third party apps, often paired with rooted phones. Anyone attempts to illegally tether their smart phone will be redirected a Verizon page which tells the user to sign up for the $20 data add-on.

This move comes directly on the heels of AT&T and their similar strategy. According to Forbes, AT&T automatically puts these data pirates onto the lowest price data tethering plan which is $45 per month.

We know these changes are going to anger a lot of you guys and gals. We’d love to hear what you have to say about Verizon and AT&T putting their foot down.

About author

Scott Webster
Scott Webster 6613 posts

Scott has been running AndroidGuys since 2007 and loves nothing more than reading up on the latest smartphone rumors. His other mobile efforts can be found on Android Update (CNET) where he covers Google's mobile platform.

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73 Comments

  1. Dinesh Abraham
    August 09, 13:55 Reply

    “illegal tethering ” ?? whats illegal about that ? i pay for my 500mb or unlimited plan. how i use it is none of their business !!! 

  2. Beatleskid7
    August 09, 13:55 Reply

    I pay for two gigs of data, let be use it as I please.

  3. Anonymous
    August 09, 14:17 Reply

    who still thinks the merger is a good idea?

    • Good Panos
      August 09, 15:52 Reply

      Not me.  I think it’s the worse that can happen to the mobile industry.

  4. Jake
    August 09, 14:27 Reply

    What do you mean “starting this week”? Hasn’t this been going on for a while now? What’s new, and where/who is the source of this information?

  5. Anonymous
    August 09, 14:37 Reply

    I think all the Android blogs on the interwebs need to band together and raise awareness on this ridiculous issue. Perhaps asking readers to write in to the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection, state and city consumer affairs departments, and the FCC. Charging people to use data they’ve already paid to use is just about the biggest scam/ripoff/horse puckey out there. There is no difference if your computer or phone is eating up data. It’s just a convenient way for carriers to charge another $20/month and continue the general consensus that mobile service in the United States is just downright pathetic.

    • zeondx
      August 13, 20:28 Reply

      Well well i must say that using ur phone to tehter is nice but is a clear breach of contract. the phones internet is throttled but when u use ur pc ur clogging their service with non throttled speeds. if internet is so so important then get a landline. at&t and verizon are both money hungry corporations but r in their own rights to protect their services. people who unjustly abuse the network deserve the boot, so if u decide to tether is up to u but if u risk it, well its ur decision to breach ur contract. Use ur android phone for downloading purposes, since iphones safari cant manage that. My advice is get a good internet service and get a boost mobile phone, in which their service is clear cut 50 dollars. also u never agreed to tether in ur plan, so tethering isnt exactly legal in terms of ur contract and if u want tethering then pay for it. tethering is made for the people on the go and usually those individuals can pay the absurd costs of data usages. this is y phone companies will win each and every time because there are some who pay for the services while others unjustly use the service without paying for it.

  6. Mike
    August 09, 14:40 Reply

    Here’s the sad truth: VZW and ATT charge for this service. If you don’t pay for it, you shouldn’t be allowed to use it (per the agreement you signed with your carrier). Plain and simple. It’s like stealing cable, really…

    • Anonymous
      August 09, 14:45 Reply

      Yeah it’s like stealing cable, except that it’s not at all like that.

      This is the equivalent of an ISP provider saying “How many PC’s do you have on your home  network? If it’s more than 1, we’re going to charge you” and then you get a wireless router and feed multiple devices anyway.
      If companies tried that shit, there would be riots in the streets.

      Now that they’re ripping off customers even further with BOTH throttling AND tiered usage, there is ZERO reason why tethering should come at a fee. It’s a feature of the PHONE not a feature of the service. Fuck these companies, seriously.

      • Anonymous
        August 09, 16:12 Reply

        In fact, that’s exactly what cable providers and PC internet providers used to do, until they were forced by the market and competition to change their ways.

        Vote with your feet.  Move to a provider (cough, Sprint) that doesn’t do this.

        • Anonymous
          August 09, 17:25 Reply

          The only problem is that once AT&T swallows T-Mobile and Verizon buys Sprint, there won’t be any competition left.

          • Dustin Carney
            August 10, 13:21

            to bad the fcc wont allow verizon to buy sprint due to the fact that their would be no variety with cell phone providers.

          • Anonymous
            August 10, 13:33

            The FCC is spineless and are all paid off by large corporations.  They SHOULD block the AT&T/T-Mobile deal, but they won’t because AT&T provides them all with their nice mansions.  Once they allow that deal, Verizon will buy Sprint because they will claim it is not fair that the FCC would block them and not AT&T.  They’ll send a few hundred lobbyists and they’ll get their way… and the consumers will get the finger.  I guarantee it.

      • Anonymous
        August 09, 16:12 Reply

        In fact, that’s exactly what cable providers and PC internet providers used to do, until they were forced by the market and competition to change their ways.

        Vote with your feet.  Move to a provider (cough, Sprint) that doesn’t do this.

    • Jim
      August 09, 15:58 Reply

      Like stealing cable? Hardly. I use a phone that my carrier did not subsidize.  I tether to a tablet that my carrier did not subsidize.  I tether using software that my carrier neither provided nor subsidized.  When I choose to tether, I do so in the absence of any service provided by my carrier.  Or, in other words, to charge me for tethering is making me pay for a service that no one has provided for me.  You tell me who’s doing the stealing here.

      • Technojester
        August 09, 23:09 Reply

        The argument at the carrier level is that you are paying for internet service for your phone. The price was set based upon expected and reasonable usage of the internet for the type of device the contract was signed for. To reflect this limitation the contract specifically and directly prohibited tethering to other devices.

        You may not like it, and personally I consider it unreasonable for capped services (if I am paying for 5gb of bandwidth and am charged for overages then it is none of the carriers business what I use that 5gb for.) I am less inclined to side with the consumer where unlimited internet on a smartphone was specifically priced based on typical smartphone usage. There is very little doubt that your service agreement prohibited tethering however if it was signed in the last 6 years.

  7. Sean
    August 09, 14:41 Reply

    This is a very loose use of the word “illegal.”  Your home ISP cannot charge you additional for how you use your data, so why should your mobile company be able to?

    • Ryan
      August 09, 15:22 Reply

      “Illegal” is definitely the wrong term to use here – no laws are being broken, so the people who continue to perpetuate the use of the phrase “illegal tethering” are either sensationalist or ignorant or both.

      It does, however, breach the terms and conditions of the service agreement you signed which provides for data usage strictly for your cell phone, not your cell phone, and your laptop, and your xbox, and your desktop, and so on.

      • Anonymous
        August 09, 17:58 Reply

        Your data IS going through your phone…

        • Anonymous
          August 09, 19:56 Reply

          Which is just a really small laptop computer.

      • Ian Fijolek
        August 09, 20:38 Reply

        Right, but everyone (I feel that you do understand this already) should understand that this does mean that they are entitled to do what they are doing. You aren’t going to jail but you can’t really bitch if you don’t like the agreement you signed.

      • MW
        August 09, 21:23 Reply

        If they was providing unlimited service they might have a leg to stand on.  However with this tiered bull crap, you are paying for X amount of data, should not be their concern how it is used.

  8. Anonymous
    August 09, 15:19 Reply

    “Verizon and AT&T have had enough of your illegal tethering and they’re not going to sit back any longer.”
    Precisely which laws are being broken? Please cite them.

    • Anonymous
      August 09, 16:11 Reply

      Verizon and AT&T would say that your contract is being broken.   So they are within their rights to void your contract.   

      Right, not illegal, but then voiding your contract and shutting off your service isn’t “illegal” either.

      The correct term is “tethering in a manner that is in breach of contract”, but that’s a mouthful.

      • Anonymous
        August 09, 16:21 Reply

        “The correct term is “tethering in a manner that is in breach of contract”, but that’s a mouthful.”

        It’s not a mouthful, it’s called being technically correct, which is very important in journalism. Claiming an action to be “illegal” means that one is committing a criminal act. TETHERING IS NOT CRIMINAL. To imply it, which the author did, is sensationalist and a flat out lie. It is fear mongering and pathetic. I can only hope it was done out of ignorance and not malice.

        You are very correct that voiding your contract and shutting off service is not illegal either. I never claimed it was, strawman. Verizon and AT&T have every right to do that. And I have the right to not do business with those companies. That’s why I use Sprint.

        • anonymous
          August 09, 18:15 Reply

          S: (adj) illegal (prohibited by law or by official or accepted rules) “an illegal chess move”http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=illegal

      • Zackery Fretty
        August 09, 18:11 Reply

        “Verizon and AT&T would say that your contract is being broken.   So they are within their rights to void your contract. ”

        OOOOOOOO

        Please-please-please do! 

        • Brianslyjackson
          August 09, 19:21 Reply

          hey its a good way to get out of contract without paying the 350 cancellationg fee verizon charges for breaking the contract.   

          So please please doo.  

  9. Sumit Khanna
    August 09, 15:30 Reply

    Sprint allows USB tethering for free, but they charge $20 for that Wi-Fi hotspot. I didn’t see their name listed up there.

    I have my phone modded and have the wireless access-point setup. I honestly don’t use it all that much, but I hope Sprint doesn’t go down this path as well. I’ve though about switching to Verizon when my contract is up since they seem to have better service, but it’s crap like this (plus the whole Goolge+Verizon private network to allow faster Google content / anti-network neutrality crap) that makes me want to stay away from those two giants.

    If I buy the phone, I should be able to put whatever software on it I want (so long as I realize my warranty is void). Who buys a car with the hood welded shut? If I buy a shiny new WRX with no warranty, there should be nothing illegal about me putting on a bigger turbo or changing out the inner-cooler. A phone should be no different.

  10. Anonymous
    August 09, 15:30 Reply

    Luckily I run CyanogenMod7 on my Thunderbolt and it’s built in.  No blocking for me :)

    • Herp
      August 09, 15:38 Reply

      I don’t think this works how you think it does.

      • Anonymous
        August 09, 16:24 Reply

        Didn’t it say third party apps? If it’s built into the OS how would they redirect you?

        • Technojester
          August 09, 22:56 Reply

          OS fingerprinting and/or http header monitoring are the 2 obvious answers.

    • Ken
      August 09, 16:21 Reply

      It’s “built in” on every Android 2.2 & up Device… Granted, I didn’t see it on my T-Mobile G2 until I rooted but it’s there…

      • Anonymous
        August 09, 16:28 Reply

        Yeah I meant a Vanilla Android custom ROM. Even if they redirect they can only tell by the size of the data packets. Some developers are already starting to update their tethering apps to alter the size of the packets so they have a harder time recognize it or can’t recognize at all that you’re tethering without a plan.

    • Al Tabor
      August 09, 16:09 Reply

      On android At&t can not tell. On ios they can.

      • Dustin Carney
        August 10, 13:17 Reply

        i have a friend who was tethering on his iphone and att told him to stop or he would be forced into a 4gb tethering plan(currently he has unlimited) and he said im watching netflix guys, and they left him alone so obviously they cannot track it

    • Ken
      August 09, 16:19 Reply

      They can tell All about your ANDROID phone…
      They can even Add or, remove Apps if they Choose to…

  11. UbuntuMan
    August 09, 15:55 Reply

    Instead of ranting about it, why don’t you just take action with your wallet?  Just cancel your account with Verizon or ATT, tell them to shove it and go with another carrier.

    • Ryan Rix
      August 09, 19:37 Reply

      Because they make more money off that through ETF fees. You can’t win with these guys.

      • Ian Fijolek
        August 09, 20:40 Reply

        Or you tether so much they terminate your account 😉 There are also frequently changes made to TOS that give you windows to leave without paying ETF.

  12. Al Tabor
    August 09, 16:07 Reply

    I have an unlimited plan. If I use my phone I or tether, it doesn’t add up to more data. So what is the problem? They have a good excuse to charge us more money, that’s all there is to it!

  13. Anonymous
    August 09, 16:22 Reply

    I’ve had enough of these companies’ whiny, extortionist bullshit, and I’m not going to sit back any longer. I am designing an open source hardware/software project to cut these clowns out of the equation. It’s basically a wimax or lte consumer grade tower. People can install them like wifi access points, and if you have one near you, you get internet.

  14. owg
    August 09, 16:31 Reply

    Data pirates? Really? For using bandwidth they already payed for? AT&T might have had a leg to stand on when it was an “unlimited” plan based on the (still silly) argument that laptops would use more bandwidth. But when they are capping you anyway? They can go to hell.

  15. Fact Check?
    August 09, 16:38 Reply

    Nice fact checking Androidguys. The only thing illegal that’s going on here is that Verizon is violating the agreement they made in order to purchase the 4G spectrum they use by blocking any sort of app specific traffic.

  16. Joseph Donofry
    August 09, 17:01 Reply

    In AT&T’s case… doesn’t changing the terms of the contract invalidate it?  That is, if they start charging users extra without the user’s explicit consent, the contract between AT&T and the user becomes completely invalidated?

  17. Tossit
    August 09, 17:33 Reply

    Data Pirates? Illegal? Are you people complete tools? Also, isn’t Verizon in particular required by their recent agreement for new spectrum prohibited from controlling what applications and uses teh phones are allowed to have?

    • Anonymous
      August 10, 08:34 Reply

      You are correct. When the government allowed them to tap into the “white space” frequencies for next gen high speed data, the agreement was that they could charge subscribers for access to it but they are not allowed to regulate, degrade, or restrict access to it once said agreement is in place. (This does not hold true for all data, only LTE and 4G frequencies. 700mhz-800mhz, etc..) Verizon is quietly being sued for this very thing as we speak. They are trying to control flow as to keep the speeds of their networks up, which I understand, but there have to be better ways of going about it. $20 a month to unlock a native application in my personally owned device is ludacris. It would be like leasing a car but not being allowed to use the radio unless I pay extra. Stupid.  

  18. Anon
    August 09, 19:28 Reply

    FYI if this happens to you then you can terminate your contract without penalty.  Early termination penalty can only be charged when cancelling original contract.  Once the contract changes, the terminate charge doesn’t apply.

    Just remember to be civil to the phone rep who you will hate.

    • Technojester
      August 09, 22:53 Reply

      Except the original contract did not allow tethering so the contract has not changed. Verizon and att are simply enforcing the existing contract .

  19. Chris Skelton
    August 09, 19:33 Reply

    Sounds like a job for legislation man man man. On the flip side, it should illegal to forcefully gouge customers with unnecessary fees for services that they don’t need. Tethering should be a given. Their networks can an handle it. It’s an issue of greed more than anything else. Next thing we know they’ll want to charge you extra for accessing certain tiers of the internet.

  20. CarlW
    August 09, 19:43 Reply

    This is bull, FCC where are you?  These phone companies are out of control.  Nowhere else in the world are phone plans nearly as expensive as in the US, and in many countries service is better.

  21. Chris Lorieag
    August 09, 20:53 Reply

    I should be able to use my bandwidth for whatever purpose I want. If they give me 4 gigs of bandwidth, I should be able to use my 4 gigs for whatever I want!! These duopoly jackasses are trying to screw us over.

  22. Jordanlund
    August 09, 21:28 Reply

    Take your service to Virgin Mobile. $35/mo. for unlimited data and texting +300 minutes (like anyone talks anymore). Install the Quick Settings app to turn on your mobile hotspot and you’re good to go. Not only do you avoid the “tethering” fee, you also cut your monthly phone bill in half (or more!)

  23. Jordanlund
    August 09, 21:28 Reply

    Take your service to Virgin Mobile. $35/mo. for unlimited data and texting +300 minutes (like anyone talks anymore). Install the Quick Settings app to turn on your mobile hotspot and you’re good to go. Not only do you avoid the “tethering” fee, you also cut your monthly phone bill in half (or more!)

  24. Dexterina
    August 09, 22:22 Reply

    If only Verizon’s 3G Mobile Hot Spot would provide reliable connectivity.  (I have it; it does not.)

    And, incidentally, I can RDP to my workstation with my Android phone–this is apparently “legal,” according to Verizon’s peculiar data definition–and could conceivably work all day connected to my computer.  Okay, I can’t *see* it very well, but I can connect…

  25. Mike Isaacson
    August 10, 04:31 Reply

    Other then the loss of revenue, what the hell do they care what I do with my bandwidth?

  26. Rizza
    August 10, 12:05 Reply

    Fight harder against the AT&T / Tmobile merger and join T-Mobile… where I have unlimited data, and tether like a mofo!

  27. Brian Burwell
    August 10, 19:47 Reply

    I’m pretty certain that any carrier that forces customers to sign up for a tethering plan is breaking the law. I might only be a layman, but I’ve read “Hush-A-Phone v United States” and “13 F.C.C.2d 420″ court decisions, and I’m pretty certain that gives you the right to tether your computer to your phone without having to pay the carrier.

  28. Mgjones21
    August 13, 16:47 Reply

    NNot fair if we already pay for data why not let us use it as we want to not right to charge us twicefor data plans that are bigger than we actually use so why not just let us

  29. Tpham
    December 11, 23:03 Reply

    i pay for 4GB of data. I ALREADY PAID FOR MY DATA NOW YOU WANT ME TO PAY AN EXTRA $30 TO LET ME USE THE BANDWIDTH I ALREADY PAID FOR HOW I WANT TO USE IT?! AS CEE LO GREEN ONCE SAID “FUCK YOU!”

  30. Omarjadid
    February 29, 04:36 Reply

    ETF or early termination fees are regardless when discussing these issues, unlimited data offered by some carriers is worth the 80 dollars it would cost to enable 5 GB of 4G Data with Untlimited texting, not to mention the price of the plan itself would run another 80 dollars.
    For something another carrier would offer half the price AT&T charges double.
    A slight hike for faster speeds would not have been a problem, but double the price for harassing texts about “data data data” need to shove it.

    I’m moving to sprint for their 80$ plan and I read online (A rep did not tell me of course they would hide this fact) that tethering is another 30 dollars. Throttling past 300MB — But unlimited Data is worth the 50 dollars I save, and as an average joe if I wasn’t looking for tethering I would be spending half as much.

    I hope someone from AT&T reads this and realizes that this means you should think of reinvesting in an ethical company.

  31. James G
    July 05, 14:16 Reply

    I can still get through with Verizon on FoxFi Pro :D. Also, tethering is not “illegal”, because you are just sharing the data that you paid for with your computer. It is YOUR data, you can do whatever you want to do with it.

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