AT&T today released a press release announcing two new data plans going into effect June 7th. In that information it was also mentioned that tethering would be an option for those plans on the iPhone with OS 4.

This confirms that AT&T iPhone users will finally be getting tethering, nearly a year after the rest of the world got it. The cost will be an additional $20/month — and there’s a catch.

The two new data plans announced are DataPlus and DataPro. The DataPlus plan will give you 200 MB of data for $15/month. For the majority of users, this should be your new plan of choice. AT&T notes that 65% of their data plan users don’t go over 200 MB/month. If you go over the 200MB, you’ll automatically be billed another $15 for 200MB extra.

The DataPro plan gives you a cap of 2GB of data for $25 / month. While it’s cheaper than the unlimited plan by $5/month, there is a cap. AT&T notes that if you go over that 2GB, you will automatically be billed $10 for an additional 1GB of data for your current month. On their new dataplans info page they mention that 98% of their data plan customers don’t go over 2GB per month.

Tethering will only be an option for customers that switch to the new DataPro plan. If you are a current AT&T customer and have the unlimited plan for $30/month, you can keep it. But you can not add tethering to that plan. New customers will not be able to choose the unlimited data plan.

While I really like the new data plans, I like that all iPhone users will no longer be forced to pay $30/month for data, I don’t like the extra charges for tethering.

I think charging extra for tethering in this new format is a very anti-consumer move. By re-formatting the data plans, AT&T now makes it explicit that you are paying for a set amount of data. Data is therefore a commodity. How you use the amount of data you purchase should no longer matter. In an unlimited plan it’s understandable that a provider would want to charge more since you are now connecting multiple devices to the data plan and theoretically using much more data. But if you are buying a set amount of data, you should be able to use it on as many devices and in any way you wish.

As usual, AT&T has taken a small step forward and a huge step back. They are sticking with the bull headed mentality of a 100 year old utility company. But, for US customers it’s still our only option.

Now, let’s discuss the coincidence of the data plans going into effect on the day the next iPhone is expected to be announced….

[photo credit: Flickr user Eddie-S]

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