What's next? My best guess is that we'll see horrendous pricing surcharges for tethering and MMS, on top of the already expensive data and voice charges iPhone users pay. I don't think AT&T execs wanted to stand up at WWDC and announce that. They'll wait in hopes that the bad news will garner less publicity in the late summer when so many news sources are on vacation and users are thinking more about the beach than about technology.
Act now to free your iPhone
Tethering, of course, allows a user's PC to access the Internet via the connectivity of the iPhone or other cellular device. It's a tremendously useful application, and AT&T, which has boasted about multi-billion-dollar plans to upgrade its network, would be crazy to miss the revenue opportunity. Incompetent, greedy, and obnoxious, maybe. But crazy? Definitely not. That's why I'm worried about a huge price tag.
I doubt it will take long for smart develoeprs to "jailbreak" the iPhone -- create unsanctioned hacks that break Apple's and AT&T's restrictions -- to find ways to tether your iPhone without the blessing of AT&T. As many of you know, jailbreaking an iPhone is not a big deal -- and once you do, you're free to tether away. Mario Ciabarra, who runs Rock Your Phone, says, "We are expecting to release a very simple-to-use tethering app for users left behind from Apple's 3.0 release shortly after 3.0 is made available." And I'm sure other unofficial apps stores will follow suit.
That's all good, but users shouldn't have to play games with their carrier or hack their products to do what they're designed to do. And innovation shouldn't be stifled by quasi-monopolies like AT&T. One step you can take: Write to Rep. Henry Waxman of California, who chairs the House Commerce Committee (which is about to hold hearings on the matter) and Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, who chairs the Senate subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights. And let the FCC, which is preparing its annual report on the wireless industry, know how you feel.
AT&T has had a lot of time to get its act together. It needs to be pushed -- hard.
I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions; reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.