To whom it may concern:

Over the past two days there has been a lot of talk about your new data plans, particularly the removal of the "unlimited" option. While I believe there should be a third tier for the heavier users, I can understand the reasons for moving to an entirely metered structure and do not have any problems with that part. Where I do have a problem is the additional $20 per month charge for users of internet tethering.

Before I make my points, let me quote one of your Senior Vice Presidents, Mark Collins, from his interview with GigaOm on the day the new plans were announced.

That capability is enabling something you can’t do today. You can use one device and get multiple connections so it’s more useful to you. You’re going to use more data so the price is based on the value that will be delivered.

This is in response to the question "What about the $20 tethering fee? It looks like a convenience charge."

That capability is only enabling something you can't do today because you locked it out in the first place. My AT&T-branded LG CU500 could not tether until I had a tethering plan, but my unlocked and unbranded Sony K850i could just fine without any special tethering plans. The Apple iPhone 3G and 3GS both have supported tethering officially since the release of the 3.0 firmware released nearly a year ago, but this was disabled on models sold in the US because you did not want to allow it. Tethering is not some special feature you are doing work to enable and deserve to be paid extra for, it's a feature all of our data-capable phones have built in which you have actively engaged in defeating.

I won't argue the statement that it makes my phone and data plan more useful, but again this is a feature that both have inherently had from the beginning and you have actively sought to remove. If I went to rent a four door sedan and found that the passenger side and rear seats had been removed unless I paid an extra fee to have them reinstalled, I and any other reasonable person would think that is outrageous. Unfortunately you are able to take advantage of the fact that 99% of your users are not technology-savvy and thus do not know how much they're being screwed.

The last part of that response is the most illogical of them all. "You're going to use more data," so the price increases without the amount of data I'm allowed to use changing in the slightest? How is me using 2GB in one month on a smartphone different from using 2GB in one month tethering to even a dozen laptops? Data is data, one type doesn't put any extra load on your network versus another.

Extra charges for tethering were acceptable when the alternative options were smartphone/dumbphone-only unlimited packages, since yes, a tethering user is likely to use more data overall. However, if I'm already buying a bucket of bits how does it matter at all if I choose to use those to feed my smartphone directly or download something to my laptop?

To close, I have been a customer of AT&T since porting in from T-Mobile's then terrible coverage in 2005. In that time I have at peak carried two voice lines, one iPhone data, and one LaptopConnect at the same time. I know that does not make me anything special, but I'm sure it's more than most of your single non-business or family customers. I have also defended AT&T as having the best network for geeks due to your use of open GSM technology and until recently highest mobile data speeds. As you might guess, I will not be doing this any longer and I will be emphasizing the problems I have with your change to anyone who may ask about your service. I had been eyeing the Sprint/HTC Evo 4G for a time while debating making the switch, I thank you for helping me make my decision. You can expect to see my number port out in the near future.

Sean Harlow

Sent via e-mail to Randall Stephenson, CEO and Mark Collins, VP of Voice and Data