I bet you can’t guess who was one of them can you? Yeah, it was me. It appears I have been a very naughty boy and have been caught by the AT&T Tethering Police. I have heard that some accounts after 5gb gets throttled, and I got some clarification on that today, but why in the Hell am I getting the attached email? Not only did I get an email from AT&T, I also got a text message from them. You think they are serious or what?
I knew I had been using a tremendous amount more data and I knew why. A few months ago I sold my HTC HD2 and got an iPhone 4. As it turns out I actually like my iPhone 4 quite a bit and I especially like the Netflix App as well. One of the main reasons I got the iPhone was that I knew my travel schedule for work was about to change and that I would have some serious travel coming my way. I liked the apps and I liked the idea of having a more mature OS that jumping right on board with WP7. In any case, my average HD2 data which I have the unlimited plan and always have, averaged about 1gb. Tons of emails and Twitter, but there was no Netflix for Windows Mobile and the Facebook app sucked. I wanted to stay connected better with my family and use the Netflix app to watch movies while I was away.
To say my data usage went up would be a understatement. Since owning the iPhone 4 my data has shot up to 5-7gb in the last three months. I have watched countless movies, streamed Pandora while driving, and used the Facebook app non stop. Games, yeah I got a ton of those and regularly beat my wife at Words with Friends. I have an unlimited plan right? Who cares. AT&T cares that’s who. So they sent me the following letter this morning:
Oddly enough I actually read this letter for some reason. Most of the time I delete AT&T emails as garbage which most of the time they are. Not this time and I really freaked when I got towards the end of the letter. It said:
“If we don’t hear from you, we’ll plan to automatically enroll you into DataPro 4GB after March 27, 2011. The new plan – whether you sign up on your own or we automatically enroll you – will replace your current smartphone data plan, including if you are on an unlimited data plan.”
My ache’n ass they are taking away my unlimited plan! I fought through Windows Mobile devices and all the driver issues, apps not working, hardware that was horribly underpowered for such a clunky OS for AT&T to take away my data now that I had a device that was capable of chewing up some data! Now I will also admit, there were several occasions that I was really curious as to how much data I could consume. Remember it is unlimited and I wanted to see how much it took to really jump up in bandwidth consumption. I actually know people that use between 10-12gb consecutively each month and use it streaming even more apps that I did. Hulu, slacker, MobiTV, even the police scanner app.
So not having any experience with this sort of thing or even having read anyone who had, I called them up.
I was very surprised when I got through almost instantly. Damn, you folks don’t answer your regular customer service lines this fast, you must be serious about recouping your losses. So I get connected right away to a young lady that definitely just started at this position. Clearly she had some training but lacked a lot of confidence in the hard line of questioning she started putting me through. I wasn’t worried but I knew better than to run my mouth and get frustrated. I was actually amused at the questioning and let he go through her routine.
Do you tether? No
Do you use your iPhone to connect your iPad? No
Do you use your iPhone to connect your laptop? No
Do you have unauthorized Apple software on your phone? (None of your damn business lady!) No (cough).
Do you use your iPhone to HDMI Movies to a TV? No
I went on to explain to her that I have been traveling quite a bit lately and that I have been really power using my new iPhones apps and enjoying them in my UNLIMITED plan. She said she understood but then reworded all the questions I listed above in another sentence and we went through it again. I explained to her that I indeed did understand what Tethering was. I was a little irritated now so I started pressing her with questions.
First I asked her how I was selected for this wonderful inquisition? She said that it had been detected that I was tethering. Okay, well how in the hell did you determine that? She replied that AT&T has a brand new department that is tracking 68,000 subscribers that AT&T thinks is tethering illegally. This special new department as she called it were tracking “Network usage types” and could actually see how the data was used. Really I said? She said yes and that this was department that was unreachable by phone and that she did know any more than that. Whoa, you are telling me that AT&T is looking at what kind of data I am using? She said she did not know how they did it. I asked her if she thought it might help her questioning if she in fact knew what she was doing. She said that she had gone through the training and that her department was the one that actually called customers. Wow. She then took ample time to cover every damn plan they offered and threatened that if my data stayed that high they would put me on the tethering plan.
I thought I would share with you the discussion I had with the Mobility Digest team:
Douglas Smith: FWD Email: BUSTED!
Ramon: Looks like att gave you the istaff. Look up istaff on urban dictionary.
Danny: at least they didn’t “automatically” upgrade your plan like they did with the iPhones back in the day
James: Damn those Bastards!
Confidential: They can’t track tethering on your pda. Only if you put your sim into a iPad or notebook or air card. That’s what they are talking about.
Douglas Smith: Does anyone know if they can physically and legally look at my data and see if I am tethering?
Douglas Smith: $%&# AT&T! (Used with permission by Ramon)
Jim: Thought they could look at the volume being transferred (as in bits per sec) to discern between a smartphone and a laptop for example, without actually looking at you data. Don’t know though with faster phone processors now if that’s viable anymore. If you didn’t actually swap out your SIM its an interesting question.
Confidential: They can tell because of the IMEI.
Chris: The imei comes from the phone, that’s all they can see. I have always used that much data on my iPhone. I’ll gladly fight that if I get the notice.
Ramon: Assuming everyone knows data packets are all signed with a header of sorts…pretty much saying what device its coming from. And they reserve the rights to trace your shit every time you sign that line for 2 more years of iStaffing.
Douglas Smith: So can they tell if you HDMI out say netflix? The packets should be all signed from the iPhone….
Douglas Smith: This sucks @$$. Okay, this is war, I am going to plug my iShit up and stream every damn movie I can come across…. They can forget about me ever turning on WiFi again….
David: HDMI out is different. The phone is still the device receiving the data in that case. That’s not tethering. If Netflix were playing on our laptop that would be a violation. It’s more a question as to where the data gets received…
Confidential: I still think it’s BS. Since June I’ve used over 90GB of data, over 12 this month alone. The MAJORITY of that data is iPhone downloads, not tethering. I’ve been tethering here in alabama, but I still don’t think that mywi will transmit any device headers past the iPhone data connection. If they can prove what devices I’m using, I’ll agree that I’ve broken their contract.
Confidential: Even on air cards and other portable dives that have any sim card has a IMEI. They can’t tell if you are tethering with a smartphone. They only way they could possibly tell is by the APN settings on the phone. For example with ATT wap.Cingular is the default APN for all data transfer. Isp.cingular is the one used for tethering. For years I have been able to tether with wap.cingular as the APN.
What I believe AT&T is doing is doing searches for people with a certain IMEI and seeing what data plans they have on there. Other than that I don’t know of any other way they can track that.
Confidential: So you got a message from AT&T just because of using the internet on your phone? You weren’t taking your SIM and putting it into your ipad or anything like that?
Douglas Smith: No I have never taken my sim card out ever. I had an hd2 before this and dis not have the apps or the travel to use that much data. Now with the iPhone, netflix, and tons of travel, it went over 7 gb.
Confidential: They have no reason to change your data plan given what info they provided with us today. This is only for people who are swapping Sims in and out of phones to other devices.
That’s where we stopped discussing this issue. I thought I would pass this along to you to help in the event you need to tether in an emergency or to avoid getting questioned by the AT&T Tethering Police. I will keep you posted on any more contact by AT&T or we learn more about what AT&T is doing. What AT&T should be doing is using these efforts to improve their network, that would be a welcomed change.