Some people seem to be justifying the way mobile networks try to discriminate against tethering. One comment even suggests that multiple devices is a valid justification. Really? Isn't it just as simple as measuring the actual volume of megabytes used, regardless of how many devices are connected?

Lets consider a couple of analogies:

  • A petrol station puts some fine print at the bottom of their sign in the street: cars with passengers pay an extra 0.05 per litre (or gallon). It is just a gimmick: the marketing man has worked out that he can put a lower price on his big sign this way and people with passengers may well be splitting the fuel bill between them. There is no technical reason for the charge however - the car actually uses more fuel carrying the extra weight anyway.
  • Or imagine this: the marketing man puts up small print that advises a higher charge of 0.05 per litre for fuelling an exotic car like a Ferrari. The only reason for this, of course, is that the Ferrari driver is probably busy (so he doesn't have time to shop around) and wealthy (so the extra charge won't deter him from making any purchase at all, because he has money to pay it).

Of course, these ideas sound a bit outlandish but the only difference between these crazy ideas and tethering charges is that mobile phone networks usually have the monopoly/duopoly to get away with it.

Mobile networks actually dread the idea of becoming commodities like fuel. They thrive on price discrimination and they seem to have an endless number of tricks to get extra money out of people who may have it by deliberately crippling parts of the service for everybody else. This goes against the ideals of innovation and efficiency and in the most extreme cases their practices are widely recognised for the sham that they are.

Revealing that you have connected a laptop to your phone may be like revealing you live in an affluent area or that you have an expensive car. Plenty of businesses try to exploit such knowledge when deciding how much they can charge you or other aspects of how they provide you with a service. This is why privacy is important in every feature of the technology we use.

This rogue behaviour by "creative" marketing men also helps to understand just what would happen in the world of technology if it wasn't for the use of free licenses, open standards, accessible encryption and net neutrality.