iPhone tethering on AT&T still waiting on better network performance

AT&T's own Ralph de la Vega mentioned as early as November of 2008 that you'd be able to tether your iPhone to your computer and use it as a modem "soon," but here we are some ten months after the initial announcement of official tethering support in the platform and there's no sign of it. Considering that many iPhone carriers around the world deployed it as soon as Apple had it ready -- and many more came online over the months to follow -- it seems that AT&T's silence on the issue has spoken volumes. We reached out to the company today to get a statement on the feature's status, and here's what we got back (text bolded by us, not AT&T):

"We understand that there is great interest in tethering but cannot provide any details at this time. We know that iPhone users love their devices and mobile broadband, and that they're likely to embrace tethering just as they have other features and apps – by using it a lot. iPhone tethering has the potential to exponentially increase traffic, and we need to ensure that we're able to deliver excellent performance for the feature – over and above the increases in data traffic we're already seeing – before we will offer the feature."

Coincidentally, that's almost identical to a statement the company issued last September, but regardless, AT&T can't necessarily afford to meet its network "performance objectives" before acting -- Verizon's announcement that Palm's Mobile Hotspot app would become a free add-on with the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus was a serious shot across the bow of any other American carrier trying to woo business customers and road warriors. Think it'll go live before the next iPhone does?