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.

  • Dinesh Abraham

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

  • Beatleskid7

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

  • Anonymous

    who still thinks the merger is a good idea?

    • Good Panos

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

  • Jake

    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?

  • Anonymous

    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.

    • Brian Honaker

      This is the best freakin idea yet! ORGANIZE!!

    • zeondx

      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.

  • 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

      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

        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

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

          • 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

            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

        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

      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

        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.

  • 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

      “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

        Your data IS going through your phone…

        • Anonymous

          Which is just a really small laptop computer.

      • 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

        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.

  • Anonymous

    “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

      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

        “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

          I think we are in violent agreement. 🙂

        • anonymous

          S: (adj) illegal (prohibited by law or by official or accepted rules) “an illegal chess move”

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


        Please-please-please do! 

        • Brianslyjackson

          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.  

  • 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.

  • Anonymous

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

    • Herp

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

      • Anonymous

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

        • Technojester

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

    • Ken

      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

        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.

  • How can they even tell if you are tethering or not?

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

      • 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

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

  • UbuntuMan

    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.

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

      • Anonymous

        You get your chance every two years.

      • 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.

      • Bigtymer8822

        who pays

  • 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!

  • Anonymous

    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.

    • Joseph Donofry

      If you’re actually serious, I’d love to see it.

  • owg

    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.

  • Fact Check?

    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.

  • Joseph Donofry

    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?

  • Tossit

    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

      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.  

  • Anon

    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

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

  • Chris Skelton

    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.

  • This isn’t illegal.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Pay up just like everyone else does to tether, suckas.

  • Jordanlund

    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!)

  • Jordanlund

    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!)

  • Dexterina

    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…

  • Mike Isaacson

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

  • Rizza

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

  • 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.

  • monster beats studio
  • Mgjones21

    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

  • John Galt

    This is all p.r. nonsense.

  • Tpham


  • Omarjadid

    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.

  • James G

    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.