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Tethered

[James Martin/CNET]

I mentioned last night that Joel headed off to North Carolina yesterday to live there for a while. This meant he would have to deal with the dreaded cable company, which in this case is Time Warner. We went online a week ago to set up an appointment to have cable TV and internet set up in his new place, only to get word a couple of days later that his two choices for an appointment wouldn’t work. Things went downhill from there.

Perhaps there will be some good news tomorrow, the best possible news at this point probably being that he can get internet and cable before the end of next week. In the meantime, the lack of internet access (except on his iPhone) is a huge inconvenience, not just for news and entertainment, but to shop and get his new place set up. At least I imagine so. I shouldn’t speak for my son.

What to do? I suggested over the weekend that he might want to take advantage of the tethering feature of the iPhone. Tethering, as you probably know, is the process by which you take advantage of your smart phone’s internet connectivity to hook it up to your computer and connect the computer to the internet as well. It’s not a new idea, and the iPhone has been capable of tethering since iOS 3.0 came out a couple of years ago. At the time, AT&T chose not to permit tethering in the US, no doubt for fear of being overwhelmed by the data demands on its network. That changed a year ago

Of course, one pays more. Plus, in a cruel twist, AT&T announced that if you had an unlimited data plan and added tethering, you would have to give up the unlimited plan. This was part of a larger change, in which AT&T stopped offering unlimited data plans to new customers, allowing those who had contracted for such plans in the past to keep them. We, for instance, pay $30/month on our iPhones for unlimited data. We can switch to the $25/month plan for 2GB of data monthly, paying $10 for each additional 1GB or part thereof. I suspect I don’t use anything close to 2GB (I know, I can easily check), so I could save the $5 by switching. On the other hand, you never know, and once I switch, there’s no going back.

For tethering, one has to make the same sort of decision. Tethering costs $45/month, and with it you get 4GB of data monthly. Thus it’s on a par with the $25/month plan for 2GB plus $10 extra per GB. But again, once you switch, there’s no going back to unlimited. You can switch from tethering and $45/month to the ordinary 2GB data plan at $25/month. But you can’t return to unlimited for $30/month. So even if you just want to test tethering for a week or two, then switch back, you’re locked out of unlimited.

It’s a risk, but life is full of risks, and this isn’t such a huge one. In any case, the option offered Joel a way out. While he waits for Time Warner to schedule him, he can tether his iPhone to his laptop and get internet access. We spoke on the phone tonight and he said he was ready for tethering. As we spoke, I went online and made the change.

I have to give AT&T credit. They make it extremely easy. Up comes our family plan on my computer with our three phone numbers, I click on Joel’s, all the plan options are listed by category, with the current choice in each category marked. I mark another choice, click a couple of next buttons to see and confirm what I’m doing, and that’s it. Within moments, he has a text on his iPhone saying he has tethering and I have an email confirming the change to the account. And moments later, his computer is connected to the internet. He’ll have to be careful how much data he uses on his computer. But in a week or two (yes?) he’ll have his cable modem, at which point he can turn off the tethering feature.

Now I want tethering too. It sounds like fun. Except that I don’t actually need it.

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Categories: Computing
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