Penny Wise and Pound Foolish
I guess this is great news for low data users.
I do not agree. It establishes the principle of metered data and fixes the price. Five years ago, I did not use any wireless data at all. This year my data use doubled over the previous year. I expect it to continue to rise. The pundits have been all over the networks today talking about how we are shifting our data usage from wired, "all you can eat," to wireless, now metered, at least by AT&T.
How is this good news even for those who will get a smaller bill for a few months?
AT&T's cost per bit will drop a thousand fold when they deploy 4G. While Verizon users will enjoy the efficiency of 4G as well as the higher speed, we may enjoy the higher data rate, we can use more data in the same amount of time, but AT&T users will not enjoy any of the benefit of AT&T's reduced cost per bit.
This is bad news whoever you are.
If they succeed in imposing the surcharge on tethering, then they will have established the principle that they can surcharge any application they like. That is bad new for everyone. This is how they plan to take money from developers. This is why the developers of PDANet say that they are not planning a product for the un-JB iPhone. AT&T is doing in the wireless space what the FCC has warned them not to do in the wired Internet space, surcharging applications and devices. If they can impose a surcharge on tethering, why not on Skype, Sling, Google, or TomTom traffic?
This is bad news for everyone.
If they want to discourage traffic, they should price bits, not apps. If they want to price apps or services, they should develop them and offer them in competition with everyone else. They should not take advantage of the investment of others.
Imagine that you are thinking of developing an iPhone service. You calculate the cost to yourself, the value to the user and based upon that, you invest. You announce your service and AT&T imposes a surcharge on it. You do not get any of the revenue generated by the surcharge and you lose customers unwilling to pay it. Perhaps confronted with the uncertainty as to whether or not AT&T will surcharge your product, you decide that the risk reward is too high and you do not invest at all.
This is bad for everyone. Even those who enjoy a slight price break early, AT&T's bait, will suffer in the long run, AT&T's hook.
We had better hope that AT&T's competitors seize the opportunity to take subscribers from AT&T rather than try to take more revenue from their existing subscribers.