Use of ZoomTether with USA Service Providers

In a July 31, 2012 consent decree with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Verizon agreed that it no longer objects to tethering applications and that tethering may be done without paying an additional fee. This was a major breakthrough, as Verizon had previously asked for $20 extra per month if someone wanted to tether a phone to a router or even a computer.

While the FCC/Verizon agreement is good news for customers, Verizon has some policies which require a cautionary note. Android users with a usage-based plan really do get free tethering. But if you instead have an unlimited plan, Verizon wants to charge $20 a month for tethering.

Verizon says that they do not charge for tethering of iPhones on a usage-based plan. But Verizon does currently charge $20 per month for use of the iPhone’s Personal Hotspot app that’s used for tethering. We hope that this disadvantage for iPhone owners will go away due to pressures from consumers or the FCC, but right now that’s only a hope.

AT&T recently changed its service plans. The new AT&T Mobile Share plan allows free tethering. Older, usage-based service plans from AT&T charge $20 for tethering and provide an extra 2GB of data.

Sprint charges a minimum of $20 per month for tethering.

If you have a 5GB or 10GB plan from T-Mobile, tethering does not cost anything more. T-Mobile charges $14.99 a month if you have a usage-based plan, the $14.99 will also increase your monthly allotment of data from 2GB to 4GB.

In early September, 2012, PC World wrote a very helpful article on tethering in the US. That article is available at:

You have the right to use ZoomTether. The question is whether you should pay your service provider an extra fee for tethering, no matter how much data you want to use.

Mobile broadband is highly profitable for the big US service providers. Consumer groups have said that it would be more reasonable to charge you for the amount of data used when you’re tethering, and to charge extra only if you use extra data.

On June 6, 2011, prior to the Verizon/FCC Consent Decree mentioned above, Free Press filed a complaint at the FCC against Verizon Wireless. The summary at the beginning of their complaint included the following:

"The practice (tethering using a mobile phone) is user-friendly. It boosts productivity. It encourages innovation in the market for wireless applications and devices. In particular, it provides a low-cost way for users to try new devices because they may use those devices without having to purchase a separate Internet connection.

Nevertheless, most major wireless carriers, including Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile, limit access to third-party tethering applications. If users wish to tether their phones, they are forced to subscribe to the carriers’ own tethering service – at rates of up to $30 per month.

This practice restricts consumer choice and hinders innovation regardless of which carrier adopts such policies, but when Verizon Wireless employs these restrictions in connection with its LTE network, it also violates the Federal Communications Commission’s rules. In Verizon’s case, limiting access to tethering applications is not just a bad business practice and a bad policy choice; it also deliberately flouts the openness conditions imposed on Verizon’s LTE spectrum."

On July 13, 2011 Public Knowledge and many other organizations wrote a letter to the Chairman of the FCC supporting Free Press’s complaint. The letter included this statement: “The ability of consumers to tether their devices, as a critical step in the future of telecommunications, is an issue of substantial concern.” Submitters of this letter with Public Knowledge were Center for Media Justice, Common Frequency, Consumers Union, Future of Music Coalition, Media Access Project, Media Alliance, Mountain Area Information Network, The National Alliance for Media, Arts, and Culture, New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative, People’s Production House, Reclaim the Media, The Transmission Project, and U.S. PIRG.

Please note that Zoom is attempting to be accurate with this information; but that the situation is fluid and inaccuracies may occur.

© 2012 Zoom Telephonics, Inc.  All rights reserved.