Commentary: The Ban on Cellphone Unlocking Has Gone Too Far

Mark Lennihan/AP File Photo

AT&T has released a new policy on unlocking phones.

In one of the industry's first effort to allay customer concerns since regulations went into effect six weeks ago that make it illegal to unlock your cellphone, AT&T is telling you to relax, they'll unlock it for you. As long as you do exactly what they say. Indeed, the newly clarified policy only reinforces how much power cell carriers wield with the new unlocking law: AT&T can still deny its customers the freedom of truly owning a phone they bought through another company — and that's why Senators are now saying it's "common sense" to overturn it.  

In a blog post on Friday, AT&T regulatory executive Joan Walsh insisted that customers' phones won't remain trapped under AT&T contract forever, as long as they play along: "I want to be completely clear that AT&T's policy is to unlock our customers' devices if they've met the terms of their service agreements and we have the unlock code." Walsh insiste that it was "a straightforward policy, and we aim to make the unlocking process as easy as possible," despite an immediate backlash from users that it was extremely not easy at all. AT&T pointed readers to this jargon filled-legal document, part of which explains the company's policy as straightforward, sure — straightforward and complex:

 AT&T will provide the Unlock Code upon request, provided that you meet certain criteria including, but not limited to the following: (a) your account has been active for at least sixty days and is in good standing (i.e. it has no past due amount or unpaid balance owed AT&T); (b) you have fulfilled your Service Commitment by expiration of any contractual term, upgrading to a new Device under AT&T’s standard or early upgrade policies, or payment of any applicable ETF; (c) your Device has not been reported lost or stolen; and (d) AT&T has the Unlock Code or can reasonably obtain it from the manufacturer. AT&T will unlock a maximum of five phones per account, per year. For Devices sold with a Prepaid Plan, AT&T will provide you with the Unlock Code upon request if you provide a detailed receipt or other proof of purchase of the phone and AT&T has the Unlock Code or can reasonably obtain it from the manufacturer.

Read more at The Atlantic Wire