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White House Petitions FCC to Allow Cell Phone Unlocking
by Karl Bode 09:28AM Wednesday Sep 18 2013 Tipped by IPPlanMan See Profile
In late January, unlocking your cellphone technically became illegal after the Librarian of Congress removed it from the DMCA exception list last year. It remains legal for you to jailbreak your phone, but you can't unlock it unless you get your carrier's permission. The absurdity of that concept resulted in a petition on the White House website aimed at making unlocking cell phones legal again, which ultimately received a somewhat ambiguous White House response in March.

Numerous months later and the White House (via the NTIA) has filed a formal petition with the FCC for the creation of new rules under Part 20 that would make unlocking phones legal. The move will "increase competition in the mobile services market and enhance consumer welfare" according to the NTIA.

It would, however, come with one major caveat. The new rule "would not affect any service agreement or contract the consumer has with a mobile provider," meaning you might still be unable to unlock your phone if you have yet to jump through certain hoops. That varies by carrier, but can include things like having to pay off any outstanding balances, etc.

"Americans should be able to use their mobile devices on whatever networks they choose and have their devices unlocked without hassle," the NTIA's Lawrence E. Strickling said in a statement.

topics flat nest 

Holy Cable Modem Batman

Washington, DC

3 edits

Service Agreement/Contract Obligation

"Removing a lock on a mobile device, however, would not affect any service agreement or contract the consumer has with a mobile provider" (Per: » ··· nlocking)

iPhone Unlocking Requirements
- AT&T: » ··· t/en_US/
General Eligibility Requirements for Unlocking All AT&T Mobile Devices
AT&T will unlock an AT&T Mobile Device under the following circumstances:
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
- The AT&T Mobile Device was designed for use on AT&T's network.
- The AT&T Mobile Device has not been reported lost or stolen.
Customer-Specific Requirements
- Postpaid iPhone and Tablet Customers: Account is in good standing (i.e., it has no past due amount or unpaid balance owed AT&T), and all contract obligations, including any Service Commitment, associated with the device to be unlocked have been fully satisfied. The Service Commitment associated with a given device may be satisfied in one of the following ways:
- Fulfillment of the Service Commitment by expiration of any contractual term
- Upgrading to a new device under AT&T standard or early upgrade policies
- Payment of any applicable Early Termination Fee

- Verizon: iPhone 5 is already unlocked for domestic/international GSM use. (Per: » ··· 7,00.asp) Assume the same is true for iPhone 5C/5S.

- Sprint: Does not unlock for domestic GSM use (Per: » ··· e/632545)

- T-Mobile: Available pre-unlocked from Apple (Per: » ··· unlocked) or you can request unlocking via T-Mobile (Per: » ··· DOC-1588)
----> As an active or former T-Mobile customer, you may request a SIM unlock code for your device directly from T-Mobile, without charge. In order to qualify to receive the SIM unlock code your device must not be reported as lost, stolen, or blocked and you meet the following criteria:
- You have purchased your device from T-Mobile or an authorized T-Mobile dealer and activated it on T-Mobile service;
- You have requested no more than 2 SIM unlock codes per line of service in the last 12 months.
- You paid for your device in full;
- Your account is in good standing;
- Your device has been active on the T-Mobile network for 40 days;
- If you are under a service contract, you have made monthly payments for at least 18 consecutive months on your plan, or have paid a migration fee for the device; certain exceptions may apply please call Customer Care for details;
- If you are on a Prepaid plan, you have had more than $50 in total refills on the device;
- If you are a former customer, your account balance is zero and you did not port out a line associated with the device during the buyer’s remorse period;
- You provide proof of purchase if T-Mobile is unable to verify purchase.
"We're going to start at one end of (Fallujah), and we're not going to stop until we get to the other. If there's anybody left when that happens, we're going to turn around and we're going to go back and finish it."
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- -... ...- -
West Chester, PA
·Cricket Broadband
·Verizon FiOS

Repeal This Bass Ackwards Law!

You can root, alter, copy, and modify the software on the phone, and that ISN'T a copyright violation.

But if you use the legitimate application that is intentionally built into the software to enter the subsidy unlock code, that IS a copyright violation.

Nice to see that they might actually reverse the ruling and allow lawful unlocking again, but if anybody hadn't noticed, the unlock code provider web sites never went away, it's been business as usual ever since this stupid ruling.

EFF the gubmint!!!

Holy Cable Modem Batman

Washington, DC

Re: Repeal This Bass Ackwards Law!

I always wondered how those sites worked. Do they have someone on the inside at the carriers on a "payroll" to get the unlock codes?

Wichita, KS

Unlocking phones

Unlocking phones is of limited utility in the U.S. at the current time due to incompatible network technologies used by different carriers. Although this is less of a problem on the GSM networks (T-Mobile, AT&T) it is to a greater extent on the CDMA ones (Sprint, Verizon, regionals) as they tend to refuse activation of "foreign" IMEI's on their networks.

In Europe, Asia, and Latin America, common GSM standards and network sharing agreements are such that in those places, phone LOCKING is illegal and it is very easy to switch from one carrier to another on any given phone.

Although it would be nice if it were legally possible, for example., to be able to unlock the GSM radios in a Verizon phone and use it on T-Mobile/At&T, the converse, taking a T-Mobile/AT&T phone to Verizon or Sprint can't be done. So "using a phone on a carrier of the consumer's choice" simply is not universally possible here in the States.

What I would rather see is the strong implementation of Net Neutrality rules on the wireless carriers, Congress giving FCC proper authority to regulate wireless carriers as common public utilities under Title II regulations, thereby forcing carriers to provide open tethering, without extra tethering charges, as these charges are not imposed in other countries due to strong regulation and net neutrality rules there.


1 recommendation

Waive It

Obama doesn't seem to have a problem waiving other laws and regulations. Why doesn't he just waive it?

Snohomish, WA

Re: Waive It

Because the problem is the Librarian of Congress, The administration can ask the FCC to petition congress to ask the Librarian of Congress to reverse the regulation, the Obama administration can't ORDER the Librarian of Congress to do anything.


Grand Saline, TX

Re: Waive It

I can't order the barista at the local coffee house to give me my order after its been made and paid for. I can ask nicely or voice my disappointment, but I can't legally order them to do anything.

I don't think the current administration cares one way or another about this (bigger fish and all that). I mean the Librarian was talking about this back in 2012, if someone in the administration thought this could become an issue they could have simply fired off a memo asking that he reconsider or postpone the decision. It would have of course been ignored, but at least it would have seemed proactive.

But I guess if this does somehow grow into an "issue" the white house could ask the FCC to help out, I mean they did just give them a shiny new lobbyist .



that once contract it up, phone bought,... should be unlocked.

The very idea of subsidizing a phone is the problem. They want to profit off the services AND the device you use. They do a poor job supporting the device (manufacturer's responsibility) and the model churn (I think a new phone model is now on a 6-12 month cycle... but contracts are two years).

And some of us do travel outside our country... having an unlocked phone not only lets you on other services...but actually shows the disparity of the charges domestic packages cost versus overseas.

King P
Don't blame me. I voted for Ron Paul
Murfreesboro, TN

Hopefully this won't fade out, like before...

Any bets on how long it takes before this request is long forgotten? We all know the FCC is completely incompetent, uncaring about consumers, and deep in the pockets of industry.

With that said, AT&T will put you through hell, to unlock a device, if you aren't a current subscriber to their service. I buy my phones up front, without a service contract, and use them on pre-paid services to save money.

IF this unlocking becomes a reality, and I certainly hope it does, then maybe we will finally see some fairness and competition in the mobile marketplace.
My Music blog:

Tavistock NJ

Radio chips that support LTE on 4 major carriers coming

Smartphones with new radio chipsets will support use on all major carrier LTE bands. As these become widely available the ability to switch carriers will force the FCC to address portability and unlocking issues once and for all.

San Francisco, CA

1 recommendation

cdma vs gsm doesnt work

Consumers can unlock all they want, but radio technologies aren't compatible so there is no way to bring benefit to consumers.
When LTE rolled around, there was a chance to enforce compatibility among all carriers, but the FCC/white house didn't dare to stand up against the big4.
When they drafted this petition, they should have stated more than just phone unlocking, something to the effect of .....fcc should enforce radio compatibility among carriers..... That's probably too much to ask for from the mainstream american public, as I bet the majority of the people signing this current petition did not realize that you can't bring a gsm phone to CDMA carrier and vice versa, unlocked or not.
Hopefully something meaningful comes from the 700mHz spectrum regulations.

The whitehouse response seems to be another fluff response with no actual weight on any of the real issues. Also seems its another topic to divert attention from any real national issues at hand!