CTIA, Five Largest Carriers Agree to Let Consumers Unlock Devices

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2013-12-13 Print this article Print

5. Response Time. Within two business days of receiving a request to unlock a phone, the carrier must initiate the request, say why a device doesn't qualify for unlocking or explain why additional time is needed to fulfill the request.

"Today we see the manifestation of what I call the 'see-saw rule'—the more industry acts to meaningfully regulate itself, the less that has to be done by government," said FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler, in a statement.

Wheeler added that the principles embody the commitment of the Consumer Code, which is an "important expression of the compact between industry and the public."

He continued, "Our goal here was not to find agreement, congratulate all involved and then file this document away never to be seen again. With industry input, the FCC will collect and review feedback through a website that allows consumers to access carrier policies directly, read FAQs, including information that explains technological limitations, and file complaints should there be concerns."

The above, he concluded, allows for execution of the Ronald Reagan adage, "Trust, but verify."

Making Unlocking Illegal

The 1998 DMC Act stated that no person "shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title," but went on to say that every three years the Librarian of Congress could consider the matter and "report or comment on his or her views."

In October 2012, the Librarian of Congress took the unpopular position of standing by the DMC Act, saying in so many words that if consumers want an unlocked phone, they shouldn't buy a locked one.

On Whitehouse.gov, a petition was started to ask the powers that be to intervene, and after passing 100,000 votes—the minimum required to guarantee a response—the White House responded, and agreed.

"If you have paid for your mobile device, and aren't bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network," R. David Edelman, senior adviser to the White House for the Internet, innovation and privacy, said in a March 4 blog post on Whitehouse.gov. "It's common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers' needs."

T-Mobile released a statement Dec. 12, saying it supports the agreement reached with the FCC.

"Clear, fair and timely unlocking policies that enable consumer choice are good for competition," said Tom Sugrue, senior vice president of Government Affairs at T-Mobile. "There is additional progress to be made on unlocking, such as the support of a robust secondary market in mobile devices, and we will continue working with the FCC to enhance the new policies announced today."


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