With the likes of Congress, President Obama and the newly minted FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler all coming out in favor of unlocked phones, the pressure is now on for the carriers to relent on their rigid policies. The good news for us consumers is that Wheeler is keeping the pressure on with a letter sent to the CTIA President Steve Largent. Largent, the head of the official wireless association governing body received the Chairman’s letter emphasizing his work to amend the consumer code which would “address consumers’ rights to unlock their mobile wireless devices one their contracts are fulfilled.”
The FCC is asking for a policy that contains five parts:
- Provide a clear, concise, and readily accessible policy for unlocking
- Unlock mobile wireless devices for customers, former customers, and legitimate owners when the applicable service contract, installment plan, or ETF has been fulfilled
- Affirmatively notify customers when their devices are eligible for unlocking and/or automatically unlock devices when eligible, without an additional fee
- Process unlocking requests or provide an explanation of denial within two business days
- Unlock devices for military personnel upon deployment
For the moment, it appears that the CTIA and FCC are in agreement on four of of the five stipulations with the lone holdout being number 3: asking for customers to be notified when their devices are eligible to be unlocked. The FCC letter calls any voluntary program that is “absent the customer’s right to be informed about unlocking eligibility” to be a “hollow shell.”
Wheeler is pushing for this policy to be enacted before the holidays this year and he’s working with the CTIA to make it voluntary but he’s willing to make it regulatory action if necessary. There’s no question Wheeler is acting with the interest of consumers in mind and I for one stand up and applaud his actions. Unlocking your smartphone can be an arduous chore, especially for international travel and the industry needs to accept the wind is blowing in a different direction, or else…regulators, mount up.
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