Tethering and Bottle Service: A Look at Entitlement & Data Plans

Bottle Service Tethering

No One Likes Bottle Service Fees

Paying for a set quantity of something, say a bottle of Wine, and then being required to pay another fee to use it in a certain way, to drink it in the wine merchant’s tasting area, can be a bit annoying, but it’s a fact of life and you don’t see many people storming in with their own corkscrew to avoid a bottle service fee.

For some reason these same people feel entitled to use their smartphone data plan as a mobile hotspot without paying the carrier’s “bottle service” fee because they have already paid for the “wine” and it’s theirs to do what they want.

As much as I understand the reasoning behind the argument, and wish that carriers would offer a data plan that covers mobile and tethering, I have to agree with James Kendrick’s assessment that, “if your carrier asks you to pay for the right to tether (called mobile hotspot), and you manage to do so without enrolling in (and paying for) this plan, then you are stealing service from your carrier.”

No matter how you slice it or spin the argument, if you are tethering without the appropriate plan you are stealing from your carrier because you are using your data plan in a means not included in the price you paid.

Does this suck? Yes. Should carriers sell you a bucket of data that you can use as you please? I certainly think so, but the carriers don’t offer this type of plan yet.

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If you disagree with the plans and terms your carrier offers, it doesn’t mean that you are entitled to tether for free simply because you have paid for some data and think it’s right. I wish that was the truth, but it’s not.

Yes, I have tethered without an appropriate plan, and I am not trying to say that I am better than someone who is tethering without paying, but I am saying that if you try to get around paying for bottle service too often, the wine merchant will start taking steps to prevent you from circumventing the service.

In the case of tethering without a data plan, we are already seeing carriers take steps to prevent rooting of phones through locked bootloaders which has been met with mixed success. The next step came from AT&T, when the company sent out letters telling tethering users to get on an appropriate plan. But this is just the beginning.

P3Droid, a respected Android ROM developer recently posted a state of the Droid address which calls out carriers and manufacturers, even Google, for conspiring to lock down the Android platform. In his post, P3Droid shares this interesting news,

1. The way that they were able to track rooted users is based on pushing updates to phones, and then tracking which meid’s did not take the update. There is more to it than this but that is the simple version.
2. More than one major carrier besides Verizon has implemented this program and that all carriers involved had begun tracking rooted phones. All carriers involved were more than pleased with the accuracy of the program.

If you attempt to get around this tracking, your phone could lose access data and voice! While I find these actions horrible, they are clearly driven by a desire to track users that are essentially stealing services through tethering without a data plan. Unfortunately, those of us who just want to be able to load the coolest ROMS and tools also suffer in terms of being tracked and in term of phone selection.

The Motorola Droid Bionic looks like an amazing phone with a 4.3″ qHD display and a dual core processor, but the fact the bootloader is locked means users will be relient on carriers for support and updates instead of the capable and quick development community which forms up around phones that don’t lock out the end user.

The only gray area is when phones have the ability to tether, but the carrier doesn’t support the option. In this case, it is difficult to blame the user for expanding the capability of their smartphone, but it was something that carrier did overlook while they attempted to figure out how to charge for tethering.

Now, like the first stores trying to sell songs to a generation of Napster users, the carriers need to convince people to pay for tethering. In this case, the best option would be to make the paid tethering services drop dead simple and more affordable.

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Image via NightlifePR DC

Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    Here is where your analogy fails…
    To drink your wine in your merchants area involves the utilization of more from the wine seller. You are utilizing his space (which is finite) and services and he needs to maintain that space as well as clean the glasses and provide for broken ones, etc…
    With tethering, you are costing exactly zero more to the carrier because you are using exactly zero more product than if you simply used the data on your phone.

    Also – while there are any number of places to buy wine, your cell carrier is a member of an oligopoly.

    So, yes it is true you are stealing service.
    It is also true the cell carrier is gauging on prices due to their advantageous position of being in a very limited market and the government should take regulatory steps to protect consumers in this space as the market itself will never act freely due to cost-of-entry disincentives to potentially competing businesses.

  2. Anonymous says

    People should scream and revolt over the tethering policies for metered data. It is especially confusing when it comes to GSM and the ability to use unlocked devices. Then the question becomes, “what is a phone”? If a device can make voice calls, does that make it a phone? Some of those large android tablets have phone functionality and is it tethering or is it sim-swapping? What if i have a laptop that also does GSM voice, like the flybook, does putting my sim in their qualify as a phone? What if i hook up my iphone to a larger monitor and stream videos all day? Is that tethering? How come if you buy the Atrix 4G and get the laptop doc included you are forced to buy a tethering plan but if you buy the laptop doc separately you are not? Lots of questions and not very good answers when you really look at it.

  3. Anonymous says

    What an utterly ridiculous analogy. No, it’s not like “bottle service” you imbecile, it’s like municipal water supply. If pay the water bill on a per-gallon basis, and it doesn’t matter whether I use it to take a shower, water the grass or fill the pool (and if the water company advertises “unlimited” water, then it should provide unlimited water, but this is a different argument entirely.)

    By the way, how much were you paid by the telecoms to produce this convoluted logic?

  4. Dorcon says

    You say that the carriers are assuming that if you have rooted your phone, that means you are tethering. Rooting does not equate to tethering. I should have every right to root my phone. If a carrier denies me service because they don’t like the software I’m using, then it’s the carrier that’s committing a crime.

    Carriers do not have a right to have absolute control over how I use my phone. This is a privacy and a civil rights issue.

  5. Reifzero says

    No offense but the analogy doesn’t hold. Bottle service is in fact an actual service, its mandatory when drinking in the establishment, but at the same time you get something out of it. However with tethering the carrier is charging you to do precisely nothing. When tethered, a phone still transmits and receives data in exactly the same way, as such tethering is a service of the phone not the carrier. A more apt analogy would be being charged a re-use fee for deciding to fill up the wine bottle you bought and took home with you with tap water.

    I find that the carriers tethering detection methods betray the utter absurdity of their claim. They can’t even tell whether a phone is being tethered or not, from a carrier standpoint the phones usage is exactly identical to that of a phone being used normally. Instead they have to target unrelated aspects of phone usage in the hopes that there is enough overlap between the two. Or as an even better analogy, it would be like the carrier charging you an extra gps access fee for google maps.

  6. Metaphase says

    I agree with all the other comments above. This is the weirdest most non-sensical analogy I’ve heard on this topic (plus a weird term, bottle service, presumably is analogous to corkage). I hate to say it, but I’ve noticed more and more of these articles recently here – not sure I want to continue subscribing (that and the minor overload of iOS gushing articles!

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