Following suit with the rumor mill, AT&T drops hints that the carrier exclusivity with the iPhone will be no more. What doesn’t match up with consumer opinion, is the companies confidence that it won’t be an issue. Apparently they know something we don’t, or they’re doing their best to save face amongst shareholders. I anticipate it’s not the former.

In a recent SEC filing, Wireless chief for AT&T Ralph de la Vega stated that around 80% of customers are locked into family or corporate plans. To switch the entire group, he says, would be a difficult task. Truthfully, he’s correct. Your family plan is (almost always) renewed when just one line upgrades its phone.

The document makes a point of avoiding any mention of the iPhone directly, however previous quarters’ said nothing about exclusivity. Many will say this could be evidence that Apple’s contract is up, or nearing the end. Factually the last mention of the contract was Apple, confirming the agreement to last until 2012. Various rumors of an iPhone coming to Verizon and T-Mobile, have been enough spark to this fiery debate.

Whether or not AT&T will admit the potential catastrophe of losing the deal, they have lined their ducks in a row, to make sure those who are current, stay that way. They recently upped their Early Termination Fee, from $175, to $325. Yea, they (nearly) doubled it.

What is horrendous for AT&T, is ultimately awesome for Apple. Widening their market will only put the full court press on its competitors. I do understand what AT&T is doing, really. They are doing the only thing they can do, which is attempt to ease inevitable concern. We cant’ expect them to come out and say, “Hey guys, we are so freaking screwed”. But the fact that they are saying something says something, don’t you think?