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iPhone users finally get tethering — for a price

Nearly a year after it was promised to iPhone users by Steve Jobs, "tethering" — using the phone as a laptop connection to the Internet — will be offered by AT&T this summer. But it will cost you an extra $20 a month.

AT&T, the only carrier of the popular iPhone in the United States, has been slow to add the service, despite Jobs' saying last summer that the most recent iPhone, the 3GS, would have the capability. The wireless carrier said tethering will be available when Apple releases the next version of the iPhone operating system, version 4, "this summer."

The news about tethering is part of an overall restructuring of smart phone data prices announced today by AT&T. Those who want to take advantage of tethering will need to use AT&T's new "DataPro" plan. That plan costs $25 a month, and includes 2 gigabytes of data. (If that amount is exceeded, charges will be $10 for every additional gigabyte of data, AT&T said in a news release.)

Then, tethering will add another $20 to the bill, making the total $45 a month.

The company said that 2 GB of data is "enough to send/receive 10,000 e-mails (no attachments), plus send/receive 1,500 e-mails with attachments, plus view 4,000 Web pages, plus post 500  photos to social media sites, plus watch 200 minutes of streaming video."

Right now, "98 percent of AT&T smart phone customers use less than 2 GB of data a month on average," AT&T said.

Jobs is expected to unveil the new iPhone 4G on Monday, when he speaks at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in the Bay Area.

Last June, Jobs has said tethering would be available with the release of the iPhone OS 3.0.

It didn't happen, but that is not surprising. AT&T has been frantically working to bolster and to improve its network, which has at times strained under the weight of iPhone customers' heavy data usage, be it for streaming music or videos. Tethering only adds to that load.