A few months ago AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon all started blocking wireless tethering apps in the Android Market, making them unavailable for download on their respective devices. At that time, Sprint was the only carrier still allowing tethering apps to be installed without limitation -- but that time has come to an end. That's right, the Now Network has begun blocking the installation of wireless tethering apps from the Market on any device attached to its network.
It seems there's been some renewed interest in the subject of Block C LTE "no locking" provisions after news that the Motorola RAZR will come equipped with a locked bootloader per Verizon's request. About four months ago, I published an article on this very topic. To summarize: Verizon can basically do almost anything it wants with handsets on its network in the name of reasonable network management - subject to a few limitations and caveats.
A few weeks ago, a GSM Nexus S update 2.3.6 (GRK39C) with voice search fixes started rolling out, but it was immediately discovered to break Wi-Fi and USB tethering. After many complaints, Google pulled the OTA, and it seems like they've spent the last couple of weeks making sure everything works as expected.
A new update surfaced tonight, also numbered 2.3.6, but this time bearing build GRK39F. While there is no official changelog, based on the fact that an update with the same exact build hit the Nexus One a few days ago and didn't break tethering, I think it's safe to say it fixes at least that issue (Update: thanks to our buddy Omar for an additional confirmation of working tethering).
It's no secret that providers have been starting to crack down on illegal tethering, but now AT&T is taking a new approach on customers using their device as a hotspot without an appropriate plan.
Back in March, Ma Bell started sending out notices to customers found to be tethering without paying their dues to subtly let them know that their current plan "may need updating." Well, as it turns out, the time for subtleties is over.
Most users accustomed to unlimited data cringe upon hearing the words "tiered data plans" - but they aren't always bad. As our own David Ruddock pointed out, they don't affect most users - and they might even be cheaper for non-data hogs (aka 97% of customers).
However, in the case of the new tiered data plans Verizon Wireless is rumored to be implementing early next month, there's not much of an argument - they don't add any value whatsoever for VZW subscribers, and their sole raison d'être seems to be raping subscribers' wallets further still.
If you've been watching the blogosphere over the last few days, you might have seen an article or two about a "complaint" filed with the FCC over Verizon's block on tethering applications in the Android Market.
The complainant's argument goes something like this: Verizon purchased the 700MHz spectrum ("block C" of the spectrum) back in 2007, and that spectrum is now used by Verizon for its 4G LTE service. That purchase, ala Google and other net neutrality lobbyists, came with one seemingly large caveat: Verizon (or AT&T, or anyone who bought in that spectrum) could not "deny, limit, or restrict" the phones using that spectrum in particular ways: phones must be carrier unlocked, able to access all parts of the web, and run any software.
It's a sad, sad day when we can't use the data that we pay for in a manner that we choose - but that day has arrived. It seems that somebody (perhaps carriers?) is blocking the ability to install Wireless Tether in the Android Market. This is what you get if you try to install it:
You can see that while it's still in the Market, it's not available for installation on any carrier-connected device.
There's been a lot of talk about AT&T's crusade against rogue tethering lately, and it all comes back to this AT&T text message sent to some poor iPhone customer(s):
AT&T Free Msg: We’ve noticed you’re continuing to enjoy the tethering feature with your smartphone service. Remember, you need a tethering plan ($45/mo, incl. 4GB) to use this feature, so we’re planning to update your line with the required plan soon.
Yes, the carrier everyone loves to hate is cracking down on unauthorized tethering - and they are automatically switching violators onto AT&T's 4GB data plan with tethering access, at a steep $45 a month.
AT&T users who have been tethering their phones' data plans under the radar (either using MyWi on a jailbroken iPhone, or one of many apps like Wireless Tether for Root Users on a rooted Android phone) have been receiving a little nudge from AT&T asking them to sign up for a tethering plan - or face possibly getting signed up for it without consent.
In a lengthy email, AT&T writes "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.
If you began drooling from the very first murmurs of a "Pure Google" tablet running Android 3.0 'Honeycomb', to the buzz at CES, through the anticipation building up to launch: your day has arrived and you likely now have a Motorola XOOM in your hands. Congratulations. Of course that would be the $800 Verizon Motorola XOOM that's in your hands. But what about that $600 Wi-Fi-only XOOM? Not only is it not in anyone's hands, but there has yet to be a confirmed release date either.