AT&T Enforcing Tether Requirement for BlackBerry PlayBook Bridge Browsing?

AT&T said a data plan with tethering support is necessary for its BlackBerry customers to share their smartphones' Web connections with PlayBook tablets in July, when it first announced BlackBerry Bridge BlackBerry support, but some users say they were still able to surf the Web using a shared connection without such a data plan. Unfortunately, that free ride seems to have come to an abrupt end for some PlayBook users.

One of the truly redeeming values of RIM's BlackBerry Bridge application for its PlayBook tablet, which links BlackBerry smartphones and tablets so users can access their handheld-based mail, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), contacts and calendar, is the fact that it also lets you share your smartphone's Internet connection with your PlayBook, so you can access the Web via tablet without a separate Web connection.

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Or at least the Bridge app currently enables this functionality for the majority of PlayBook users. Unfortunately, AT&T BlackBerry smartphone customers with PlayBooks have to pay for a smartphone tethering data plan to access the Bridge Browser.

However, I've heard from multiple sources that AT&T hasn't really enforced this rule until recently. In other words, even though both AT&T and RIM stated in July, when AT&T Bridge support was first announced, that a tethering data plan was required to use the Bridge Browser via AT&T handhelds, the browser apparently worked without a tethering plan until very recently and following a BlackBerry Bridge software update.

I use an AT&T BlackBerry along with my PlayBook, but I also have a data plan that supports tethering, so I can't confirm these claims myself. The fact that multiple sources tell me they were able to surf the Web via PlayBook using the Bridge Browser without an AT&T tethering plan until updating Bridge to v.1.0.5.6 makes me think either the carrier wasn't enforcing its rule until very recently or, perhaps, some type of bug in AT&T's system was letting a few exceptions slip by.

The possibility also exists that these sources were using unofficial versions of Bridge that somehow circumvented AT&T's tether-plan requirement, but at least one of the sources says this wasn't the case, because they were able surf via Bridge Browser using the current Bridge version at first, but the functionality has since been disabled.

I reached out AT&T spokesman Seth Bloom for a comment and was told that as far as he knows, a tethering plan has always been required to utilize an AT&T BlackBerry's data connection via PlayBook.

Are you an AT&T BlackBerry customer with a PlayBook tablet? Have you been able to use your Bridge Browser without a tethering plan? Can you still do so? Or has the functionality always been blocked for you?

AS

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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