AT&T a wee bit defensive over cell phone unlocking situation

cell phone unlock ban
Library of Congress's cell phone unlock ban seems unlikely to stick

An issue that earns the attention of the White House can surely be considered a meaningful controversy, which makes it no surprise that AT&T voiced its two cents on the cell phone unlocking ban on this morning.

The U.S. carrier issued a statement on its public policy blog to spell out its bottom line, "[W]e unlock our customers' devices."

"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," wrote AT&T Vice President of Federal Regulatory Joan March.

"It's a straightforward policy, and we aim to make the unlocking process as easy as possible."

The controversy

The cell phone unlocking ban issue came to a head at the end of January when it became illegal for cell phone users who purchase new devices to unlock their handsets for use on other carriers.

This didn't go over well. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, expressed concern a week ago, and the White House was forced to respond this week when a petition gained more than 100,000 signatures.

"It's common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers' needs," White House Senior Advisor for Internet, Innovation & Privacy R. David Edelman wrote.

AT&T's response

AT&T sounded defensive in its Friday statement.

After issuing a history lesson on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Library of Congress' recent change of heart regarding cell phone unlocking, Marsh wrote, "While we think the Librarian's careful decision was reasonable, the fact is that it has very little impact on AT&T customers."

"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 60 days; whose account is in good standing and has no unpaid balance; and who has fulfilled his or her service agreement commitment," she added.

"That means that the Librarian's ruling will not negatively impact any of AT&T's customers."

The carrier is right to get its hackles up, considering the heated response this issue has garnered. Considering where AT&T stands, it's probably wise for it to clarify all this, as it comes out on top as far as consumers are concerned.

Now to lean back and see if other U.S. carriers follow suit.

Michael Rougeau

Michael Rougeau is a former freelance news writer for TechRadar. Studying at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Northeastern University, Michael has bylines at Kotaku, 1UP, G4, Complex Magazine, Digital Trends, GamesRadar, GameSpot, IFC, Animal New York, @Gamer, Inside the Magic, Comic Book Resources, Zap2It, TabTimes, GameZone, Cheat Code Central, Gameshark, Gameranx, The Industry, Debonair Mag, Kombo, and others.

Micheal also spent time as the Games Editor for, and was the managing editor at GameSpot before becoming an Animal Care Manager for Wags and Walks.