Developing: Cricket May be Starting to Crack Down on Free Hotspt Use

  • A couple of Cricket customers posted on Reddit that they received texts from Cricket yesterday stating that they had used their phone as a hotspot without paying Cricket’s $ 10 hotspot fee. The texts warned the customers that if their “prohibited” hotspot use continued, their service would be suspended on December 20 and cancelled on Jan 5.

    Cricket has always blocked no extra cost hotspot use at the device level on iPhones and most Android devices.  Resourceful users have found ways around the hotspot block by jailbreaking iPhones and installing a Cydia hotspot app, making system modifications or installing tether apps on Android devices, which often requires rooting,  or finding unlocked specific Android phones that Cricket hasn’t figured out how to block. Now it looks like Cricket is about to crack down on users who found a way to hotspot in spite of Cricket’s blocking.

    We don’t know what criteria Cricket is using to flag hotspot use. They may be going after all prohibited hotspot use. But it’s also possible that they are only after customers use hotspot and also use a lot of data. If you hotspot on Cricket, please leave an anonymous comment indicating whether you got one of these warning texts from Cricket,as well as which plan you are on and how much data you use in a typical month. That will help other users determine if they can get away with light tethering or if even a little hotspot will get them in trouble with Cricket.

    I’ve always felt that operators charging extra to use the data you already paid for with was unfair. Discriminating against or charging extra to use certain applications is also a clear violation of the Net Neutrality principle that holds that all data traffic be treated equally. Current FCC rules require providers to practice Net Neutrality. However the FCC has never really enforced Net Neutrality and is poised to repeal the Net Neutrality rule entirely on December 15. It looks like Cricket isn’t wasting any time taking advantage of the demise of Net Neutrality.

    If you are using your phone as a hotspot it looks like you have three options, pay Cricket’s $ 10 fee, switch to a different operator that doesn’t charge extra or block hotspot use or figure out a way to hide your tethering from Cricket.

    For many customers, paying extra for hotspot is not even possible as the option is only available to customers on Cricket’s most expensive $ 55 and $ 60 plans and only with iPhones and specific Cricket Android phones. The $ 10 fee also only allows 8 GB of hotspot use per month.

    Carriers that don’t block or charge extra for hotspot include AT&T Prepaid ($ 45 plan only), Boom Mobile (iPhones only), PureTalkUSA (only iPhones officially supported) Boost Mobile (specific phones, 8 GB cap on $ 50 unlimited plan), MintSIM, MetroPCS (except $ 50 plan, 10 GB cap on $ 60 unlimited plan), Tello, T-Mobile Prepaid, Verizon Prepaid ($ 40, $ 50 and $ 60 plans only), US Mobile and Ting. This is not an exhaustive list. Some carrier branded Android phones may also require modification to get hotspot working.

    Hiding hotspot use is complicated as carriers have many ways of detecting it. Two techniques that carriers have been reported to use are checking the user agent strings that apps and browsers send with every request and looking at the Packet Time To Live (TTL) parameter. Both TTL and User Agent vary between phones, PC’s and set-top boxes.

    I’ve never found the need to hide hotspot and don’t know much about the process. If you want to try you need to do your own research and experimentation. Some things to look at are tether apps like the Cydia TetherMe app for jailbroken iPhones and  PDANet+ and WiFi Tether Router (root required) for Android claim to be able to hide hotspot use. Using a anonymous VPN and changing the TTL are two techniques that have worked for users to hide hotspot on various operators. I don’t use Cricket and don’t know if it’s possible to completely hide hotspot from them.

    Source and image: Reddit

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