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No kidding, I always think to myself that I'd LIKE to have a data plan especially while I'm away or on the road...but then I see the price. Just a few weeks ago I was at a tmobile store and asked about data-only rates for laptops, and I think it was $60/mo for 5GB plus something ridiculous for overage. I honestly don't know how much bandwidth I'd need/use, but I can't afford an additional $700+ / year for mobile internet, especially since I'm at home most of the time. I'd always be worried about going over with streaming video.
Several years ago I contemplated using the free intra-network mobile voice calling and modulating data across a bluetooth link to the phone. I kind of had a proof of concept working using ham radio soft-modems which could communicate via sound cards (including the bluetooth sound driver emulation). But I figured it wouldn't be worth the effort to make it production-ready because it's likely I'd just be blocked for service abuse. Edited 2012-08-18 04:29 UTC
Sprint's "everything" plans are very competitive, giving you truly unlimited data, voice and texts, with just a $10/month "smartphone tax" which still keeps my bill well under what I was paying at T-Mobile.
The downside is that Sprint doesn't have good coverage everywhere, and their mobile broadband for laptops isn't unlimited like it is on phones. The price for that kind of thing is prohibitively expensive for anyone who doesn't absolutely rely on it for their business.
The great thing about both T-Mobile and Sprint is that they are very relaxed about tethering. If you have an Android or BlackBerry phone with it built in, they don't seem to notice occasional tethering. I've even read (anecdotal) accounts of Sprint employees dropping hints to customers on how to tether without buying the separate plan.
Since I picked up a Nexus S 4G, I've used the built in tethering app without any problems. Granted, I'm not pulling down multi-gigabyte ISOs or anything crazy like that, but it's there when I'm in a pinch and need it.