When tethering was announced as an addition to iOS back in 2009, AT&T was among the last carriers to support the new feature.

When iOS 4.3  introduced Mobile Hotspot, AT&T support it immediately as part of its $45/month DataPro 4GB package. AT&T offers a $15/month 250MB 3G data plan for iPhone users, or a $25/month 2GB plan. Another $20/month brings the data cap up to 4GB and enables tethering.

Of course, people have been tethering long before AT&T allowed it, and many people continue to do so without forking over the extra cash.

That may be about to change.

Starting today, AT&T has been contacting users via text message and a letter regarding their illicit tethering. (A fully copy of the letter is at the bottom of this post. And boy, it is pretty passive-agressive.)

Currently, there several options to enjoy USB, Bluetooth or wireless tethering. A common one is My-Wi, an app available from Cydia for jailbroken iPhones that gives users Mobile Hotspot for a one-time charge of $20.

It’s unclear how AT&T is identifying users that are taking advantage of jailbreak options, but it sure seems like the company is serious about the issue. AT&T will automatically upgrade tethering users to the $45/month data plan starting March 27 if unoffical tethering is noted.

The same jailbreak options exists for Verizon customers, but so far that carrier hasn’t been upset about users tethering on their own.

The Letter

Dear [Customer],

We’ve noticed your service plan may need updating.

Many AT&T customers use their smartphones as a broadband connection for other devices, like laptops, netbooks or other smartphones– a practice commonly known as tethering. Tethering can be an efficient way for our customers to enjoy the benefits of AT&T’s mobile broadband network and use more than one device to stay in touch with important people and information. To take advantage of this feature, we require that in addition to a data plan, you also have a tethering plan.

Our records show that you use this capability, but are not subscribed to our tethering plan.

If you would like to continue tethering, please log into your account online at Cell Phones and Cell Phone Plans – Wireless from AT&T, or call us at 1-888-860-6789 Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. CST or Saturday, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. CST, by March 27, 2011 to sign up for DataPro 4GB for Smartphone Tethering.

Here are details on the plan:

DataPro 4GB for Smartphone Tethering
• $45 per month
(this gives you 4GB in total, combining both your smartphone data plan for $25 and the tethering feature, $20)

• $10 per each additional GB thereafter, added automatically as needed
• Mobile Hotspot capabilities are included for compatible Smartphones

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.

If you discontinue tethering, no changes to your current plan will be required.

It’s easy to track your usage throughout the month so there are no bill surprises. For example, we send you free text messages when you reach 65, 90, and 100 percent of your plan’s threshold. If you would like to monitor your account more closely, go towww.att.com/dataplans to learn about other ways to track your data usage.

As a reminder, our smartphone data plans also include unlimited usage of Wi-Fi at no additional charge. AT&T smartphone customers can use Wi-Fi at home or on-the-go at any one of our more than 23,000 U.S. hotspots already included in your data plan.

Thank you for bringing your account up to date. We appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve your mobile broadband needs.

Article Via Ars Technica

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