FCC to investigate the ban on cellphone unlocking

by: Robert TriggsMarch 1, 2013


Back in January it became illegal to unlock your cellphone in the United States without the express consent of your carrier, preventing law abiding users from switching networks without having to buy a new handset.

The decision was made after it was ruled that software used in smartphones and other devices is the intellectual property of the developer, therefore as users don’t own the software they have no right to break network locks.

Well now the FCC has said that it’s prepared to look at the issue in order to weigh up any harmful effects the law could have on consumers, competitors, and future innovations.

I am left wondering why the FCC didn’t decide to look at this during the same 90 grace period which was given to users to unlock their smartphones, but I suppose this news comes better late than never for US consumers.

It was certainly a controversial issue at the time, with many consumers making the fair point that once they’ve brought a handset it’s not really any business of the carrier what they do with it. On the other hand the legislation seems fairly unenforceable and several carriers already offer unlocked handsets, so the law probably isn’t affecting many consumers anyway.

Weirdly the FCC doesn’t seem sure whether or not it will actually be able to do anything about the legislation, even if it decides that it doesn’t like the current rules. FCC Chairman Julius Genacheowski stated that:

“It’s something that we will look at at the FCC to see if we can and should enable consumers to use unlocked phones”

Well I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what the FCC decides to do about the new rules. Are you still concerned about this legislation, or is it just another technicality which doesn’t really affect the majority of smartphone users.

  • On a Clear Day

    If you were foolish enough to sign up for a contract and pay – usually – somewhere around 1/3 more over a two year period than you would have had to pay if you had just held off, bit the bullet, saved your money (rather than getting yourself indebted, essentially, to a carrier for a monthly, unchangeable payment – for which they can sue you and screw up your credit rating should renege on “their generous terms”,

    THEN if you were so foolish, then you should also be honorable and stick with your decision and not break your word to carrier for the agreed upon time you committed to use them.

    This means that the question of “unlocking” your phone and moving it to another carrier – prior to your contacts expiration, after you are signed up for two years of indentured servitude feeding their cash cow, makes unlocking a mute point.

    Unfortunately, we live in a world where responsibility for one’s actions is not consider “fun” and those who foolishly do things they ought not because they want instant, unearned gratification will find anyway they can to weasel out of it, and there are no end of “rights activists” more than willing to cry foul over spurious, perceived outrages against individual freedom. Just like this situation.

    The moral of the story? Don’t let yourself get locked into a carrier; buy an unlocked phone from the get go and take it whither thou wilt and be free at last, free at last, Thank God Free at Last! lol