Fortunately, there are folks out there who figured out how to work around this awful practice. It turns out, that BIOS firmware is just software after all. And modifying that software is possible. (It did require I installed an OS I haven't run or supported in over 12 years... alas, what's one to do? I know, figure it out or write the tools necessary for doing this.)
So here's how I was able to use a wifi nic in laptop that isn't *approved* by the company that doesn't *OWN* my laptop.
Finally figured this out.
1. Download the bios mod: w520 bios modTook almost a week to find these nuggets and figure out the process.
2. Download official bios
3. Flash official bios
4. Edit environment.dll with hex editor (the one in the flash tools dir), per this page: environment.dll
5. Create flash.bat per this page: flash.bat
6. Run flash.bat as admin.
Pretty unhappy that h/w manufacturers would cripple my hardware - whitelisted hw stiffles innovation and is completely anti-competitive. Not to mention downright rude and invasive.