By Byron Acohido
Some members of Congress have jumped on board with President Obama supporting the reversal of the ban on unlocking cellphones.
U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) , RichardBlumenthal (D-CT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) on Thursday introduced the Wireless Consumer Choice Act, a bill seeking to rescind a Library of Congress rule that made unlocking one's cellphone a copyright violation, as of Jan. 26, 2013.
Meanwhile, AT&T executive Joan Marsh on Friday morning issued a statement asserting that the ban "will not negatively impact any of AT&T's customers." However, Marsh points out that several conditions apply.
Activist Sina Khanifar, who helped organize a petition drive asking the White House to intervene, contends AT&T's unlocking policy does not go far enough. Khanifar supplied USA TODAY with this line-by-line assessment of Marsh's description of AT&T's unlocking policy:
Marsh: 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.
Khanifar: That's great. But what if they don't have an unlock code? If someone buys a phone from AT&T for which AT&T doesn't have an unlock code, how are they supposed to get it unlocked?
Marsh: 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.
Khanifar: I'm not sure what 'fulfilled his or her service agreement commitment' means exactly. In what cases would they not give out an unlock code? Why does the account need to have been active at least 60 days? How about customers who travel internationally within the first 60 days of a contract and want to avoid exorbitant roaming fees? And finally, how about a consumer who buys an AT&T phone second hand to use on the T-Mobile network and has no relationship with AT&T?
Marsh: It is a pretty straightforward policy. That means that the Librarian's ruling will not negatively impact any of AT&T's customers.
Khanifar:That doesn't seem true. If AT&T doesn't have the unlock code, if the customer hasn't been on contract for at least 60 days, or hasn't fulfilled his or her service agreement commitment, then they don't get an unlock code. And finally, all this depends on how quickly the unlock codes are delivered - AT&T states on their iPhone unlocking portal that requests may take 5 to 7 business days. How about consumers who need their phones unlocked quicker than that.