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Tethering – Is It Really Stealing

Tethering is it really stealing? This subject is becoming somewhat of a debate in recent months, as more and more phone companies change their policies regarding what is and what isn’t permitted regarding tethering. The problem is that the majority of customers just don’t see things the same way that the phone company does. Both the Android and iPhone smartphones are capable of tethering, and the new Windows phone will also be when it is available.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, tethering is the process of linking a smartphone to a second device that can use an internet connection. It might be a laptop, a netbook or a tablet or any other device that can go online. The second device uses the data connection from the smartphone to provide its internet access.

Unfortunately, many phone companies are now banning this practice, unless the user has paid a premium fee to be allowed to use an official tethering app. There are even those who consider it ‘stealing’ to be using your allocated and paid for data via tethering, but this is where many disagree.

To compare this policy, it would be like paying for electricity to your house. You are permitted to use it for lighting, even for heating. But under no circumstances are you allowed to use that electricity for powering your TV set, or computer-or anything else that plugs into a wall socket. Instead, if you wish to power devices that are not directly built into the fabric of your home, you must pay a premium rate. It would be like paying 50c per unit of electricity for lighting, but $1 a unit for electricity that is used to power your TV.

The big difference with your data on your smartphone is that you pre-pay for a certain amount. On a capped plan you may have 500mb included in your plan that you can used without paying anything more, so why does it matter whether you use that 500mb to browse the web on your phone, or on your tablet?

One difference is that a tablet, or any device larger than a smartphone, is likely to use more data and do so more rapidly than your smartphone will. This makes it more likely that you will go over your allowance and then be charged at a far higher rate. It would seem that this would be good for phone companies, and that they would encourage it! Especially since 1mb of data used on a phone will look no different to them-or be no more work to carry than 1mb of data through the phone, on a tablet. 

Ultimately it is down to the individual to decide whether or not they consider tethering to be stealing. They have the data already available, and already paid for, and many use apps that bypass the blocks that the phone company puts in place. Some companies block tethering altogether, unless the premium is paid, and others still may charge a huge amount for the data that is used via tethering. It cannot be denied that it might be against the terms of service of a particular company and hence there may be penalties, however it would seem reasonable that anything that you have already paid for cannot, by definition, be stolen.

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