There's the good kind of follow-the-leader, and then there's this. While the world cheered as all four major US wireless carriers implemented prorated early termination fees, we can all hang our heads accordingly for this one: AT&T has just followed Verizon Wireless' march into the dark, evil corners of contractland by adjusting ETFs higher for netbooks and smartphones. In an email sent out to select customers, the carrier notes that beginning on June 1st (that's less than a fortnight away), customers who select "advanced, higher-end device[s], including netbooks and smartphones, will have an ETF of $325, reduced by $10 for each month during the balance of the service agreement." That's up significantly over the $175 ETF that affects all of AT&T's handsets today, though still $25 less than VZW's plan. The silver lining -- if you could call it that -- comes with this point: customers "who are buying basic and quick messaging phones will have a lower ETF of $150, reduced by $4 for each month during the balance of the service agreement." Naturally, existing contract customers won't see any immediate change, but you can bet you'll be nailed with the new terms once you head in this summer to pre-order that iPhone 4G. The full memo is posted after the break -- so much for "rethinking possible," huh?

Update: AT&T has published an "open letter" explaining the changes. Thanks, Daniel!

[Thanks, L.]
Beginning June 1, 2010, AT&T is making changes that will lower the early termination fee (ETF) for many customers who agree to new term commitments, and will increase it for others.

• Customers who are buying basic and quick messaging phones will have a lower ETF of $150, reduced by $4 for each month during the balance of the service agreement.
• Customers who purchase a more advanced, higher-end device, including Netbooks and Smartphones, will have an ETF of $325, reduced by $10 for each month during the balance of the service agreement.
Current AT&T wireless customers who are within their existing service agreement or have an existing enterprise service agreement will see no change to their current terms.
Action Required
• Review the Know the Facts and FAQs to learn the complete details of the ETF change.
• Managers in Company Owned Retail should review the ETF Ops Brief for additional items required to support the change.