Phone unlocking not a problem for AT&T customers, carrier says

March 8, 2013
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AT&T on Friday announced that it’s ready to “unlock [its] customers’ devices,” explaining that they won’t be affected by the recent unlocking phones policy in the country. At least those that qualify for a handset unlock, that is.

Since unlocking handsets became illegal in the U.S. again, we’ve seen a White House petition get enough signatures to get the government’s attention. Moreover, a bipartisan bill waiting to modify the cell phone unlock law has already been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, AT&T has put up its marketing tricks to assure customers that it’s ready to unlock devices – although in reality it probably prefers them not to have unlocking thoughts in the first place. After all, keeping customers locked to their service is what any mobile operator out there tries to do. And what better way to do that than by selling subsidized, and therefore locked, handsets to subscribers, and then keeping them on your network for as long as possible?

However, now that the attention of the consumer is turned to this particular issue, we shouldn’t be surprised to see carriers say that they have no issues with unlocking phones requests – and they shouldn’t have any problems with the procedure in the first place. Realistically though, don’t expect unlock procedures to be hassle free – not that this means we’re encouraging you to take unlocking devices into your own hands.

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To have AT&T unlock your device, you’ll have to qualify, which means passing several tests:

While we think the Librarian’s careful decision was reasonable, the fact is that it has very little impact on AT&T customers. As we make clear on our website, if we have the unlock code or can reasonably get it from the manufacturer, AT&T currently will unlock a device for any customer whose account has been active for at least sixty days; whose account is in good standing and has no unpaid balance; and who has fulfilled his or her service agreement commitment. If the conditions are met we will unlock up to five devices per account per year. We will not unlock devices that have been reported lost or stolen.

The quote above comes from AT&T’s Public Policy Blog, where AT&T’s Vice President of Federal Regulatory Joan Marsh explains what the DMCA ruling on unlocking handsets means for AT&T customers, while making sure that AT&T’s existing and future customers know they won’t really be affected by this policy change.

Let’s hear it from you, AT&T subscribers, did you unlock your handset with the carrier yet? How did you find the process?

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