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Ma Bell nerfed my tethering!
May 3, 2011 11:49 PM   Subscribe

Ma Bell nerfed my tethering! I'm long off contract from my 3G and happy to switch carriers/OS's. Which smart phones on which providers would you recommend? They must have reasonably priced and effective tethering availing.

Last year I got rid of my home internet and started relying on my jailbroken iphone's tethering capacity (MyWi) for internet access. I don't spend much time at home so it wasn't much of an inconvenience for the saving $50 a month. It was fantastic on the road too. Heck sometimes it was even faster to tether to my phone than use my girlfriends top-shelf comcast cable plan at her place (comcast internet here is fantastically unreliable and slow). I wasn't a heavy user, just a few GB a month.

AT&T now says the game is up and I can start paying extra dough (and lose my grandfathered in "unlimited status") or never tether again. They claim they have a team of crack scientists and supercomputers that can tell if ever tether on my own again. I find it repugnant to pay again for something I already paid for. Imagine having to pay more to burn your gasoline on the highway than on a normal road. I paid for the bandwidth, I should be able to use it however I want. Frankly I think the whole system of wireless networks is a big collusive scam.

I've heard all these rumors that Sprint unlimited is actually unlimited. Supposedly T-Mobile unlimited is actually bandwidth capped after a certain point (and its maybe sort of merging into bellville anyway)? Verizon unlimited seems to be the same as AT&T unlimited only when use is limited. But then there are these new rumors that most of the networks are eliminating tethering apps from their Android stores. Sorting through the technicalities of the options available from the different carriers has me at wit's end.

I'd like a reasonably smart phone with a reasonably largish data plan + tethering at reasonable rates, is this unreasonable?
posted by Chekhovian to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sprint does seem to actually have unlimited tethering. I've never used it as my sole internet connection, but I've had months where I tethered (including things like watching streaming videos from Netflix and Amazon) for 20+ hours, and no one's ever said boo to me about it. And without tethering at all, I burn through about ten gigs a month, so I'm going to bet that the months where I used it as my internet connection for hours on end were pretty heavy usage. I pay $70/mo for--uh. 500 minutes (which--who uses those?), unlimited texting, and unlimited internet. My phone's an HTC Hero (rooted and running Cyanogen 7), which I love and find adequate for my purposes.

I believe that if you get a smartphone with Sprint now, there's an extra $10/mo smartphone fee tacked on, but frankly, even with that, you're still paying a hell of a lot less than you'd pay for AT&T or whomever.

I know that I sound sort of like a commercial, but there's no affiliation, I'm just a really, really happy customer. I switched to Sprint from Verizon about three years ago, and I've been nothing but pleased with the service.

The one caveat is that tethering wasn't supported until FroYo (2.2), and many carriers remove the feature from their phones. If you're willing to root and install a ROM, this won't matter; if you're not comfortable with that, you may be SOL.
posted by MeghanC at 12:47 AM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Blazecock: That has absolutly zero to do with the question, and in fact only applies to apps available through the android market. You can still download apps and install them on android phones directly. And since the question involved a jailbroken iPhone we can assume the user could root an android phone anyway. This question is completely handset neutral.
AT&T now says the game is up and I can start paying extra dough (and lose my grandfathered in "unlimited status") or never tether again. They claim they have a team of crack scientists and supercomputers that can tell if ever tether on my own again. I find it repugnant to pay again for something I already paid for. Imagine having to pay more to burn your gasoline on the highway than on a normal road. I paid for the bandwidth, I should be able to use it however I want. Frankly I think the whole system of wireless networks is a big collusive scam.
Hmm... it wouldn't be too difficult, I would think, to look at the raw packets going over the network and determine if they were meant for other machines. It's probably a form of deep packet inspection (although it might be possible without going 'deep')

You can get around deep packet inspection by doing a VPN. You setup a VPN endpoint somewhere (like on EC2 or whatever - you can get a micro server for $50/year) and connect the iPhone to that. Then, you setup the iPhone to transparently wrap all the traffic from your machine to use the VPN.

You might even be able to do something like run a proxy server on your iPhone that just takes any web requests, and makes an encrypted connection to your server to download the page and send it back. AT&T would have no way of knowing what the pages were, what device they were ultimately being viewed on or anything else.

Basically you'd be doing what people in China have to do to get on the internet.

Unfortunately all these would require a lot of hacking, it's not a ready-made solution.
posted by delmoi at 6:20 AM on May 4, 2011


I'm on Verizon now, but I had a similar experience to MeghanC's when I was on Sprint using a rooted Hero.
posted by nosila at 8:58 AM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stock android phones support USB and wifi teathering out of the box. On tmobile both the nexus one (you would need to buy one used) and the g2 run the stock os. I believe that the verizon thunderbolt is stock aswell but I would double check.
posted by phil at 9:47 AM on May 4, 2011


Simple solution:
1. StrongVPN, use it on your iPhone. End-to-End encryption will prevent any kind of spying.
2. Jailbreak and use PDANet. The new version includes options to hide the tethering from carriers.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:20 AM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


All the advice is much appreciated. My next step is civil disobediance I think, specifically 24x7 streaming of pandora with no tethering (even while I'm sleeping). Its apparently about 60 mb/hour, so I could pull down 40 gigs in a month. Lets see what their reaction to that is going to be. Imagine the effects on their network if all the legacy unlimited people did this in protest. It would be a virtual sit-in! (I'm not claiming this would be a morally courageous act, but it would be a good slap in the face for ATT).

We'll see how that goes, then perhaps I'll try the VPN and PDANet solution. And if everything fails its off to Sprint!

This is really hilarious by the way.
posted by Chekhovian at 4:17 PM on May 4, 2011


And the strong VPN service looks really great. That would probably be a good parnoid investment even for normal web usage.
posted by Chekhovian at 4:19 PM on May 4, 2011


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