The latest story comes via Techblog, detailing the UK phone provider O2’s plan to charge iPhone users making “unauthorized” tethering use of the device (i.e. using the iPhone as a fancy, expensive USB cellular data interface). It turns out that AT&T has a similar policy in place, except authorized tethering is not available for purchase yet for AT&T customers.
A commenter on the Techblog post raises a very valid point: iPhone users–in fact, most likely all smartphone users, including non-iPhones and those on providers besides AT&T–already pay a significant amount for data service, and says an extra tethering fee is “double-dipping” on AT&T’s part. I think the serious laptop-based data network users will wind up buying an actual data interface device and that most see tethering as an emergency backup.
The notion that Apple or AT&T would want to restrict the freedom of its users yet again is disheartening, but unfortunately expected; there is nothing really prohibiting AT&T–or any other carrier–from doing what they are doing.