Another column about the Verizon iPhone

It seems like only yesterday that we were all hot, bothered, brothered, sistered and in a tizzy about AT&T being the sole, sucktacular wireless provider for the iPhone. (Hold on, the iPhone wireless telecommunications device from Apple, Inc. (NYSE:AAPL); there you go, SEO freaks.) But, in fact, it was seven days ago. Now, at last, Jobs & Co. have voted for Pedro and all our wildest dreams are coming true—Verizon will begin selling a Vulcan-proof, CDMA version of the iPhone on February 10. Let the "Can you hear me now? No? You must still be on AT&T" jokes begin.

Personally, I've had no real problems with AT&T in the 18 months I've been playing "Crush the Castle" on my 3GS. I just happen to live and work in an area of Dallas where coverage is good, rarely driving through the dead zones about which my coworkers seethe.

Of course, I still hate AT&T. Even though I get my wireless, DSL and home phone through them. Why? Because I hate Time Warner Cable even more and Verizon FIOS isn't available in my neighborhood (but it is across the street—yay). So, I'll being paying attention to what Verizon's pricing plans are when they're finally announced and David Pogue posts a song-and-dance video explaining where all the hidden fees are buried. My AT&T contract is up in June, so I'm almost ready to roll. The one caveat: I still have the unlimited data plan. Which, given my proximity to Wi-Fi 99% of the time is really kind of a waste. But one day, in the middle of Kansas, I might need to stream all five seasons of "Dexter" and, by Jove, I'll have that bandwidth at hand. What I probably won't have is a signal from AT&T.

Anyway, I'm not here to tell you about the Verizon iPhone. It's an iPhone 4 with CDMA bits and a rejiggered antenna. Any questions? What I'm more mildly enthused about is the included 3G Mobile Hotspot app, which will allow up to five devices to share the phone's data connection. Why am I mildly enthused? After all, I could tether my phone to, say, my MacBook Pro with AT&T if I were so inclined to spend another $20 a month. Which I am not. And while the prospect of allowing five devices share the bandwidth and take me back to US Robotics HST days sounds très chic, what really sorta floats my boat is the hope of a tethering price war.

Currently, AT&T charges $20/month for tethering. Which you would already know if you'd read the previous paragraph. That's 20 bucks every month just for the opportunity to tether. It includes no extra data. Yep, tether your phone to your computer or data-intensive nether regions and you're sucking bytes out of whatever data plan you currently have, as long as it's at least the 2GB/month one. While I'm no technical wizard, I find it hard to imagine that AT&T has to do much work for those 20 bones. Which is where the price war can come in.

I suggest that Verizon announce a tethering plan that is free. Yes, free. Completely free. Not free plus a $2.95 freedom charge. One hundred percent free including shipping, handling and button-pushing charges. I mean, why not? If they're going to charge a fee (and they're gonna) for every giga-, mega-, or kilobyte you go over on your data plan, why not make the tethering free and encourage people to exceed their data plan allotments? People like me would be able to use our laptops in Wi-Fi-free zones without explaining to the kids where their McDonald's money went, and the carriers could sit back and count even more money. Money they didn't even have to bury in their bills.

Crazy talk, I know.



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