FCC Boss Demands Carriers Speed Things Up on Cell Unlocking
In late January, unlocking your cellphone technically became illegal
after the Librarian of Congress removed it from the DMCA exception list. It technically remains legal for you to jailbreak your phone, but you can't unlock it without carrier permission. The absurdity of that concept resulted in a White House website petition
, in turn resulting in the White House (via the NTIA) nudging the FCC
to create new Part 20 rules making unlocking legal once again.
Enough time has passed, and it is now time for the industry to act voluntarily or for the FCC to regulate.
-New FCC Boss Tom Wheeler
Now, as part of one of his first moves on the job, new FCC boss Tom Wheeler has sent a letter to the wireless industry
(pdf) urging them to move more quickly to adopt voluntary
guidelines requiring they offer more robust unlocking options for consumers.
Many carriers will allow users to unlock handsets so they can be used on other carriers, but frequently only after a user's contract term is completed. Users are also, of course, limited by the limitations of network design as they float between carriers. Wheeler stated the FCC has been working with the CTIA for eight months on updating their voluntary consumer code to allow for unlocking (though the FCC clearly finds demanding carriers sell unlocked phones a bridge too far).
Wheeler notes that the FCC and wireless industry are in agreement on four out of five of the code's provisions, which include:
• Carriers must make their unlocking policies clear and concise (many already do this; for an example see AT&T's unlocking rules
• Carriers must agree that the end of the contract or a paid ETF auto-allows unlocking (many already do this)
• When receiving unlocking requests, carriers must either grant the unlock request or provide their reason why not within two days. This can currently be a tricky proposition even with carriers that have a relatively decent unlocking policy.
• Carriers must unlock devices for military personnel upon deployment (some carriers, including AT&T and T-Mobile
, are already doing this).
What the FCC and the wireless industry apparently can't agree upon is the FCC's request that wireless carriers automatically inform consumers when their device is available for unlocking, with no fee. That's not too surprising for those who've witnessed Verizon's recent device behavior
, or Sprint's unwillingness to seriously embrace unlocking in any fashion.
"Enough time has passed, and it is now time for the industry to act voluntarily or for the FCC to regulate," states Wheeler. "Let's set a goal of including the full unlocking rights policy in the CTIA Consumer Code before the December holiday season."
Threatening regulations if carriers don't adhere to voluntary provisions is fairly standard operating procedure for regulators around the world. The problem with our FCC has traditionally been they either lack the courage to back up their threats with actual regulation when needed, or the voluntary conditions they ask for are already being adopted by industry
with no meaningful penalty for not fully adhering to them anyway.
What you get in the latter instance is just a political show pony, trotted around the stage to mass industry self congratulation, but resulting in little meaningful reform.
Wheeler's certainly saying all the right things
, but this is yet another instance where he's going to find his purported dedication to consumer issues very quickly tested.
| |PhoneBoyGoogle "No Agenda"
Gig Harbor, WA
If the FCC were serious about this... they would simply ban the practice of selling locked devices in the first place. Also, operators would be required to allow users to use any device that meets the technical requirements for connecting to their network. Looking at you, Verizon and Sprint.
In other words, Carterfone. Which the FCC seems to conveniently forget they required the wireline companies to adhere to in the 70s.
If the carrier's won't move.. Then it's time to force all cell phone manufacturers to sell phones unlocked, and not allow for any phone to be locked. Period.
Upper Marlboro, MD
Re: If the carrier's won't move..
said by Rob:All Verizon 4G LTE phones come unlocked
Then it's time to force all cell phone manufacturers to sell phones unlocked, and not allow for any phone to be locked. Period.
Re: If the carrier's won't move..
said by rradina:This makes no sense. You will still be paying the agreed rate for the phone and service, regardless of if it is unlocked or being used elsewhere. The network operator isn't going to lose any money.
I'm OK with eliminating locking codes but then the customer should foot the ETF fee up front like a renter's deposit. Then it can be refunded when the customer completes their contract or used to pay the last part of the contract.
So why should you have to pay full price or wait for the end of the contract? Fortunately this is not something the networks force upon you in other countries - you can usually get a unlock code immediately or within a month of receiving it, or you just buy the phone in an unlocked state in the first place (using quality standards like GSM/UMTS/LTE works wonders here)
AT&Ts unlock policy is a load of crap I bought a phone outright from them for use on an MVNO. I had no AT&T accounts, and never will again, so, when they trotted this little quote out on the initial deny(which took 5 days)
quote:I had to get it escalated and spend 60 minutes on the phone with 5 different people explaining that I bought a phone in full, and needed the unlock code to use it on the carrier of my choice. They seemed shocked and confused why someone would do that, and did not believe me, even tho I had the receipts to prove it. Took about an hour for the first phone, and then less than a week later, the second phone took only about 40 minutes. I will never buy a carrier locked phone again, for any carrier.
The person requesting the unlock must be one of the following:
a current AT&T customer
a former AT&T customer who can provide the phone number or account number for the account
Re: Carriers won't reduce monthly charge after contract is fulfilled. that is exactly why i havent bothered "upgrading" even though my 2 year is up, for one theres that bs upgrade fee, which they dont charge if you take "advantage" of there "att next" crap, but then theres all so the forced mandatory data fee. being legally blind i have no use what so ever for data on those phones, i just need a large screen with big text, but to get that id have to pay nearly double my current plan. orrr if i get a "smart" phone with text to speech im still screwd. youd think theyd have some discounts for disabled folks, but they dont. when i contacted the "office of the president" all i got was a severely outdated list of 3rd party paid software (most of which was actually no longer available) if the FCC wants to regulate, how about thinkin about us disabled folks eh? especially with cell phones replacing landlines.
but ive went OT a bit. the cost of the handsets are all so to me at least bs, i mean i get it, there itty bitty computers but $500+ ? really? and what about folks that just want a "dumb phone" ? dads 71, he just wants a simple basic phone, well that cost me $200 WITH contract because the only one att had at the time was a samsung rugby 2.. sure its a nice phone, but man the prices just make no sence. and thats why people still fall for the contract thing.
and then you get no discount when its up, att keeps maken out there att next thing like its some super big deal, no its not, it saves you nothing. all they did is push the subsidy on to the consumer so they can pocket even more profit, as you get 0 discount for service. sure theyl say at the end of the contract you "save" the monthly fee, but thats not a reduction in the service cost.
said by n2jtx:Makes them a great fit with Softbank.
Well I guess Sprint's unlock policy is concise; domestic unlock? Go to hell is their response.
Glen Head, NY
said by openbox9:At first, nobody really knew anything about SoftBank and with Sprint service having been pretty bad on the data side and their Network Vision program stalled in many places, it looked like a savior coming into to rescue us. Then someone actually started researching SoftBank and it became apparent that this acquisition may very well to turn out to be what is euphemistically called a clusterf__k. Luckily we have three other carriers to choose from. If I had to choose a new carrier, my choice in order would be; T-Mobile (my original carrier), Verizon and AT&T. You would have to tie me down and beat me with a brick to go with AT&T but if they were the only one left I probably would not have much choice.
As a current Softbank customer, I really didn't understand the excitement arount here when the acquisition was announced. A third-rate carrier acquiring another doesn't magically make something great.
I support the right to keep and arm bears.